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Biden’s policy fuels hunger: food aid for 42 million people is cut

Food aid is being cut across the board in the US. 42 million poor Americans, many of them children, face cuts of between $95 and $235 per month per household. The average per capita payment will drop to $6.10 per day, or about $2 per meal.

This egregious attack on the most vulnerable in American society is shared between the two major political parties. The emergency food aid program introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic will be repealed on March 1, 2023, under the Omnibus Budget Act passed by Congress last December and signed by US President Biden.

Further cuts for the poorest Americans are already planned. They are part of both the budget bill and Biden’s decision to lift the public health emergency (PHE) and declare the coronavirus pandemic over effective May 11, 2023. Biden’s decision stands in stark contrast to the fact that COVID-19 continues to kill hundreds of people every day in the US alone and thousands worldwide.

The cuts also include the reopening of a determination process to review eligibility for food aid, Medicaid health care and other welfare benefits. This process was suspended in March 2020 when the outbreak of the pandemic forced the Trump administration to declare a national emergency. Millions of families and individuals will now be successively excluded from these benefits through the review by the end of the year.

Food aid cuts (officially SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) began as early as February 1, and 18 US states, all Republican-run, began cuts as soon as legally possible. The month-long phase-in of the cuts ends on March 1, after which the remaining 32 states plus the District of Columbia, Guam and the US Virgin Islands will also implement these cuts.

The number of people affected by the cuts as of March 1 is staggering. In the 16 largest US states, these are: California – 2.93 million people; New York – 1.61 million; Texas – 1.34 million; Illinois – 1.06 million; Pennsylvania – 1.04 million; North Carolina – 813,000; Michigan – 705,000; Ohio – 673,000; Massachusetts – 629,000; Washington – 518,000; Virginia – 470,000; Oregon – 416,000; Alabama – 393,000; New Jersey – 388,000; Maryland – 360,000; and Wisconsin – 347,000 people.

The cuts in food aid are particularly bad and reactionary as they come at a time of high food price inflation. According to the US Department of Agriculture, overall food prices rose 11.4 percent in 2022, faster than in 2021. Eggs led the way with a 32.2 percent increase, due in part to bird flu. Fats and oils were up 18.5 percent, poultry was up 14.6 percent and other meats were up 14.2 percent. Grain and baked goods prices rose 13 percent.

Millions of low-income people, most of them from the working poor, now have to pay these higher prices with significantly reduced food aid. Further cuts are planned. The Congressional Budget Office expects overall food aid spending to fall this year due to cuts in emergency aid funds and to stagnate over the next decade.

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