Dec. 16, 2005 – The Bush administration told several states earlier this week that they could not use the projected rise in home-heating costs to increase food-stamp benefits. The decision came as Congress prepares cuts to the program in a move that may leave an additional 250,000 needy people without food aid this year.
At least five states filed amended requests for Food Stamp Program fund increases that reflect Department of Energy home-heating price-increase projections, the progressive economic think tank Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) announced yesterday. The states â€“ South Carolina, Kansas, Maine, New York and Virginia â€“ maintain that the updates are necessary to ensure that low-income families can afford both heat and food this winter.
Such requests are routine, the CBPP said, but, in an apparent policy change, the US Department of Agriculture turned down all five states, stating that its budget remains based on last yearâ€™s figures. The decision is likely to affect people on fixed incomes, and the CBPP said low-income families "will face difficult choices between heating their homes and keeping up with their other expenses, like buying groceries, putting gasoline in their cars, and affording prescription drugs and other medical costs."
Furthermore, the organization charged in a statement yesterday: "The administration's decision violates the clear intent of the federal law that established the Food Stamp Program, which says that food-stamp benefits must take households' utility costs into account."
South Carolina, where over 220,000 people receive food stamps, intends to re-file its request, the South Carolina State reported. The other four denied states have not made their intentions public as of press time.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives approved about $700 million in cuts to the Food Stamp Program along with other spending slashes to assistance programs utilized by the poor, Reuters reported. Earlier this year, lawmakers rejected a bill that would have added funding to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Wednesday, police arrested 114 religious activists who blocked the door to a congressional building in protest of the proposed cuts, the Associated Press reported.