In 2009 the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided most four-person households an $80 increase in their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program allotment to spend on groceries. As of Friday, this extra allotment will end.
"Our biggest concern right now is letting people know that yes, it is a cut," said Brooke Barone, Nutrition Outreach and Education Program coordinator for all of Chautauqua County. "A lot of misconceptions are going around that the program itself is being eliminated, and we definitely want to let people know they are still going to receive benefits. Even with the government shutdown, we still maintained benefits."
According to the Chautauqua County Department of Social Services, everyone will receive a 5 percent reduction in their current benefits. How much a household receives depends on multiple variables such as the number of members, rent, health care and income.
"We also like to recommend and remind people that we have local food pantries they are all qualified to use, to become involved in," she said. "There are some really great food pantries out there."
Due to the loss in benefits, Barone says families will need to budget more and choose wisely where they grocery shop. She also said there are programs out there in addition to SNAP, such as food pantries, people will be able to utilize.
"It definitely is a significant loss to those families that are already struggling," Barone said. "We have not heard anything as far as it (nutrition assistance) being reenacted in the legislature."
Barone has an office at 120 W. Third St. in Jamestown where she helps families set up SNAP applications and receive the benefits. She also is available for home appointments. People also can go to the Social Services building on 110 E. Fourth St. in Jamestown or online at www.mybenefits.ny.gov to apply for nutrition assistance.