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Neil Dubovsky: Food stamp challenge – the importance of SNAP

Today is day 3 of my family’s participation in the food stamp challenge, and so far, so good. I will provide greater detail tomorrow, but as I stated yesterday, I want to devote today’s column to providing more information about the food stamp program itself and its importance.

Food stamps is the colloquial term for a federal program called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”). Any person or family meeting SNAP’s income and asset eligibility requirements receives financial assistance from the federal government, administered predominantly by the states.

At present, SNAP provides assistance to approximately 45 million Americans who live at or below the poverty line. The benefits of this assistance are not solely philanthropic. Without SNAP, these recipients would not only go hungry but would face serious nutritional and other health issues.

As we know, our political representatives in Washington are currently involved in negotiations regarding deficit and debt reduction packages. Anti-hunger advocates are deeply concerned that SNAP might be targeted for massive funding cuts or structural changes that could result in enrollment being capped and many struggling with hunger being kicked off the program. In fact, the recent budget plan passed by the House of Representatives calls for a 20 percent reduction in SNAP appropriations beginning in 2015. Were that to occur, the effect would be catastrophic.

Even if one is not swayed by the moral argument, there is a compelling argument that the continuation of SNAP funding will greatly reduce the medical costs and expenses borne by all of us when those affected – the majority of whom presumably do not have health insurance — suffer the inevitable adverse health consequences.

Given the number of people being affected and the tremendous assistance provided by SNAP, it is not difficult to imagine the devastating effect — both economic and humanitarian — this would have not only on our fellow citizens who rely on this aid, but on our society in general.

Neil Dubovsky is an attorney with Fedder and Garten, a full service law firm located in Baltimore. His practice concentrates in the areas of general, commercial and real estate litigation. Read more on his blog.