Federal budget cuts could impact Spokane County assistance programs

Federal budget cuts could impact Spokane County assistance programs

Concern is circulating among some assistance programs that low-income people rely on in Spokane County after President Donald Trump unveiled the second budget proposal of his presidency this month. It calls for sharp cuts to assistance that would affect a wide range of people.

Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners (SNAP) Communications and Fundraising Team Manager Jennifer Martin said some of SNAP’s federal funding is on the chopping block.

“What is up for full elimination is the Community Services Block Grant funds that go to community action agencies, like SNAP, who are here to provide basic essential services to our neighbors to stay warm and safe in their homes,” Martin said.

SNAP could lose between four and five million dollars depending on what lawmakers decide, according to Martin.

President Trump’s proposal calls for elimination of the grant because it’s quote “not well targeted.”

Martin noted that that grant money helped serve one in 10 Spokane County residents who relied on SNAP for some kind of service in 2016.

But, SNAP isn’t the only assistance program facing cuts. The proposal slashes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, by nearly 30% in the next 10 years. It would also require the program to hand out government-prescribed meal options.

Second Harvest Community Relations Specialist Julie Humphreys said those proposals are concerning, even though Second Harvest doesn’t rely on federal funding. Humphreys said it would be challenging to serve that many more clients if SNAP were to drastically decrease service. There is a large difference in service size between the organizations.

In 2017, SNAP provided $70 billion in food assistance to people in need across the country and all of the Feeding America Networks, which Second Harvest belongs to, provided $4.2 billion dollars worth of food assistance, according to Humphreys.

“SNAP does a good job of feeding a lot of people and if there were to be substantial cuts, we would definitely feel it at private hunger relief organizations throughout the country,” Humphreys said.

This budget proposal is just the beginning of what will likely be a months-long process in the nation’s capitol.

Martin said she wants current clients to know they’re not cutting any services right now and they do have a reserve fund they can rely on depending on what lawmakers decide.

“We absolutely just want to be sure that everyone is aware that these essential services are needed. Often people, because of this assistance, are able to improve their economic status and don’t continue to need assistance ongoing,” Martin said.