At 21 percent, Mississippi has the largest proportion of its population currently depending on food stamps – nearly 630,000 people. Oregon, Tennessee and West Virginia are next, where people relying on food stamps are at around 20 percent of the total state populations.

In West Virginia, one of the states that will be most affected by the cuts, SNAP benefits went down from nearly 42 million dollars in September to a little less than 39 million, a West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) spokesperson told IPS. The nearly three-million-dollar cut for November will affect almost 300,000 people in the eastern state.

States that see their SNAP funds decreased often have no alternative funding to replace the loss.

“Clients were notified of this change via mail for [the] decrease effective November. Workers were provided tools to educate recipients of this decrease in advance,” the DHHR spokesperson told IPS. However, West Virginia is not going to supplement this loss with other funds and is not currently aware of any plans to support other donor organisations such as food pantries.

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Other states are likely to face similar situations.

All are involved

Days before the Nov. 1 ARRA expiration, Al Franken, a Senator from Minnesota, joined 38 other lawmakers in organising a letter calling for Congress to stop the new SNAP cuts that is currently under legislative scrutiny.

“I met with farmers and farm leaders from across Minnesota who want us to ensure that we don’t hurt children, seniors, and families in Minnesota and across the country by slashing SNAP funding,” Sen. Franken said in a statement on Oct. 28.

The 39 senators write that the SNAP programme “is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger [and it] plays a critical role at a stressful time in the life of families [as it] allows struggling families to put groceries on their tables when they face financial troubles.”

The senators urge Congress to approve a bill that will not include those changes that are designed to raise new barriers to participation in the programme.

In the meantime, advocates can do little but wait.

“I really hope that bipartisanship will eventually make people in this town realise what they should do,” Earle Eldridge, the church volunteer says. “All I can do is pray.”

© 2013 IPS North America

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