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GOP Budget Would Cut Help For Arizona’s Hungry

May 6, 2011

PHOENIX - Any Arizonan qualified for federal food assistance can get it - for now - but advocates say that would change under the budget proposed by U.S. House Republicans.

The GOP budget would convert SNAP, the food stamp program, to a state block grant and cut its total funding by 20 percent. Arizona Community Action Association director Cynthia Zwick says the result would be increased hunger for the state's poor and working poor.

"Families who are struggling and working to become successful participating members of the community should still be able to eat, and should still be able to feed their families. The cut to this program will ensure that many families are not able to do that."

The state's jobless rate remains near the highs of the recession, Zwick says, and demand for food assistance is the highest ever. She says SNAP is doing what it is supposed to do: helping low-income families put food on the table and keeping them from going hungry.

"Without this benefit program, many families in Arizona simply would not be able to buy enough food to serve their families three meals a day. Some of them still can't, but it's helping. More importantly, they wouldn't be able to serve nutritious meals."

It can be argued that the SNAP program reduces health care costs, Zwick says, and in some cases prevents homelessness.

"If they're able to get some nutrition assistance, they can go out and purchase food, which frees up some of their other income to support other household requirements such as medication, rent, utility payments."

The average time a person is on the SNAP program is nine months, Zwick says.

Arizona has the second-highest poverty rate in the nation, with more than 1 million families receiving food assistance. Details on the SNAP program are online at azdes.gov.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ