COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Part of the 2009 federal stimulus increased food stamp benefits but Congress is allowing that increase to expire next week.
On Nov. 1, benefits will be reduced for the nation's 47 million food stamp recipients. That includes 32,000 in El Paso County. The amount of reduction depends on a variety of factors, including income, expenses and household size. Generally speaking, the amount of reduction increases with the size of the household.
The cutback worries Nathan and Stephanie Peterson, a Colorado Springs couple with three children. Nathan is unemployed and the family's monthly food stamp allocation could be reduced by a third, to $424.
"It's going to affect me because I can't, I don't know how I'm going to feed my kids," said Stephanie. "I'm working, but I don't make that much to even feed them, and I don't know how everything's going to work out for the holidays."
"Less meat, less milk," said Nathan.
According to national statistics, around 15 percent of the U.S. population receives food stamps, with an average allocation of $133.
Arturo Serrano, manager of the county's Department of Human Services, said many of the families receiving food stamps are struggling and have few options for finding additional food assistance.
"There's no additional allotments or supplements that we can do, from our office perspective," he said. "There's a lot of resources within the community that are working also on the food line -- food banks, etc. They're pretty maxed-out, too, at this time."
Serrano said the number of monthly applicants for food stamps has increased recently to around 2,500.
The government reduced another food benefit this spring by scaling back hot lunch programs for senior citizens. That move was tied to budget cuts in the federal sequestration.
At the beginning of October, food stamp recipients received a small benefit increase to keep up with the cost of living.
Congress possibly may lower food stamp benefits further next year, as members debate a 5 percent cut that would eliminate benefits for an estimated 4 million people.