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Gov. Cuomo to preserve SNAP program, feed New Yorkers

Stephon Johnson | 2/27/2014, 9:58 a.m.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced that his administration is “taking the steps” to preserve close to $457 million a ...
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Andrew Cuomo cares, even if the federal government doesn’t.

On Tuesday, the New York governor announced that his administration is “taking the steps” to preserve close to $457 million a year in benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that might otherwise be cut because of the recent farm bill that passed through Congress.

Under the new legislation, the average monthly SNAP benefits would be cut by $127 per household in New York, which includes those living in government-subsidized housing. Cuomo’s actions can save close to 300,000 households in New York from going hungry.

“New York state is stepping up to help families in need who are losing vital food assistance because of Washington cuts to the SNAP program,” Cuomo said in a statement. “These federal cuts have made it harder for our state’s most

vulnerable residents to put food on the table. The state has intervened on behalf of these low-income New Yorkers to make sure they can get food for themselves and their families.”

Cuomo’s plan involves New York dedicating close to $6 million in additional federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program money through the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance in order to maintain current SNAP benefits for all affected households. That funding will then be used to increase the Home Energy Assistance Program benefit of SNAP recipients who live in situations where heat isn’t included in the rent. Because of that maneuver, households remain eligible for the highest SNAP allowance for energy costs, which enables them to keep getting benefits.

Rep. Charlie Rangel praised Cuomo in an emailed statement, noting that the recent temperatures might make a bad situation worse for households that might lose their benefits.

“We are fortunate to have Gov. Cuomo, who cares about the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who depend on SNAP to survive,” said Rangel in a statement. “During this harsh winter, families shouldn’t have to choose between heating and eating. Extending lifelines for people who need assistance is not only our official duty, but also our moral obligation.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, in a statement, called Cuomo’s actions “a heroic step to stave off hunger in New York. I hope other governors in ‘heat and eat’ states will follow his strong leadership.”

As the AmNews recently reported, the farm bill will slash funding to SNAP by $9 billion and reduce food benefits for close to 1.5 million Americans. The bill also includes language that would make it difficult for the Environmental Protection Agency to track importation of genetically engineered and pesticide-coated seeds and monitor their use.

According to statistics delivered by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, every $1 of SNAP money spent generates $1.73 in the U.S. Economy, resulting in a $3.8 billion hit to the city’s economy.

Cuomo’s attempt to save SNAP in New York has also drawn the praise of the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation. The organization released a statement discussing how they’ve seen the effect of SNAP cuts up close.

“Thirty percent of Bronx households who live in the neighborhoods we serve depend on SNAP benefits, and the governor has offered them a critical lifeline as Washington continues to punish low-income families,” read the statement. “When food stamps are cut, families are forced to fill up on inexpensive carbs, passing up healthier foods. It’s this kind of diet that results in increased obesity rates. Each year, obesity-related problems cost the health care system $12 billion in New York state and $190 billion nationally.

“The governor’s plan will also save taxpayers in the long run,” the statement read.