State Food Stamp Aid Will Reduce Strain on City's Poor, Advocates Say

By Paul DeBenedetto on February 28, 2014 9:07am 

 Gov. Andrew Cuomo restored about $457 million in food stamp benefits to New York, a move advocates say will help the city most of all.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo restored about $457 million in food stamp benefits to New York, a move advocates say will help the city most of all.
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Flickr/governorandrewcuomo

NEW YORK CITY — A new plan from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to preserve $457 million in food stamp benefits will help reduce the burden for city residents, advocates said.

Congress earlier this month voted to approve a 10-year, $956 billion farm bill that included $8 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which threatened to strain soup kitchens across the city.

But thanks to the new state plan, announced Tuesday, about 300,000 New Yorkers will have their benefits restored, according to the governor's office.

"These federal cuts have made it harder for our state's most vulnerable residents to put food on the table," read a statement from Cuomo. 

"The State has intervened on behalf of these low-income New Yorkers to make sure they can get food for themselves and their families.”

Advocates this week praised the move, with the New York City Coalition Against Hunger calling it "both morally correct and economically smart."

The plan would help organizations like St. John's Bread and Life, a Bed-Stuy food pantry and soup kitchen whose staff earlier this month feared the cuts would overwhelm the already-taxed facility.

The facility has already seen a 29 percent increase in clients since last year, due in part to the expiration of a SNAP provision in the Recovery Act, said Executive Director Anthony Butler.

If the current cuts had gone through as planned, it would have resulted in an additional $90 in cuts per month, and a total of about $130 in cuts per month since November.

"It's a tremendous thing," Butler said of the state assistance. "Twenty-five percent of those cuts took place right here in New York City and we were anticipating having to meet those needs through the food pantry."

It was not clear how long the additional aid would last. The governor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While Butler said he was thankful for the state help, he said was still disappointed in the congressional vote.

"This is a federal issue, it's not really a states issue," Butler said. "They kind of punted on it."

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