The holiday season is ending and the long winter months await Mainers everywhere. While many Mainers enjoy the winter, it can add burdens to many struggling individuals and families who now have to find money to heat their homes among the cost of so many other things. Due to three new proposals to cut back SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps), Mainers, and others across the country, are now faced with another potential burden; finding money to put food on the table without as much assistance. When the budget is tight food is often the first thing reduced. The federal SNAP program helps with the monthly cost of food for nearly 164,000 Mainers. Most benefits fall very short of covering all food expenses, but the impact they have is critical to individuals and families who work to make ends meet every single month.

The first proposal, which is set to take effect in April 2020, focuses on able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 49 without dependents. There is a push to get able-bodied people back into the workforce. However, able-bodied adults with SNAP benefits are often already working part-time or volunteering, as is required by the federal program. The tightening of the work regulations would also limit the waivers available to states that allow able-bodied adults to keep benefits through the ups and downs of employment when they may be unable to fulfil the above work/volunteer requirement. This proposal stigmatizes SNAP recipients while neglecting struggles such as homelessness, transportation, and mental health issues that make job security a challenge. Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program staff and supporters believe that food is an integral part of building a solid foundation for people to work from. Taking away access to food through SNAP benefits has the potential to only further exacerbate existing struggles for our guests and for countless people throughout our community and across the nation.

The second and third proposals have a larger impact on working families, seniors, and people with disabilities. These proposals have not been passed yet, but they focus on capping the utility amount that is used to help determine SNAP benefits and cutting down automatic eligibility that is gained when a recipient is receiving other benefits through programs such as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). The second proposal could have a huge impact on recipients living in Maine and other colder states, due to the high cost of heating in the winter months. The third proposal would impact many working families who are dangerously close to the edge of the poverty line and rely on SNAP benefits to keep them afloat as they use their income on other expenses. Families who lose automatic eligibility would also suffer from the loss of automatic eligibility for their children in the free and reduced school lunch program. According to Maine DHHS a total of 44,068 Mainers will lose some or all SNAP benefits, including 11,031 children, and 9,598 over the age of 60 or with a disability.

The impact of these three proposals together will have a devastating effect on people who already utilize Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program to help supplement their food needs, and could drive even more community members to seek out non-governmental resources once they are no longer assisted through the federal program. Hard-working Mainers and our more vulnerable populations will be negatively impacted by cuts to SNAP benefits. Neighbors, coworkers, and community members are faced with challenges every day, and the loss of access to food is another blow that could knock many off their feet. Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program and other neighboring food pantries work to support those who need it, through food distribution and connections with other resources. To learn more about Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program visit us at, call us at 207-725-2716, or stop by at 12 Tenney Way, Brunswick.

Haley Dolloff is the program coordinator for Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program. Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among four local non-profit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community. 

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