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Food Assistance Cut: One Woman's Story

CASCADE, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28)--Millions of Americans, who rely on the government for food assistance, are adjusting to a new budget.  Beginning today, billions of dollars are no longer in the federal food assistance program.

Back in 2009, under the federal stimulus package, food assistance benefits increased to help during the recession. Now that act is expiring.

The loss could range from $11 to $36 a month for a family of four.
Members of congress are now debating whether to trim even more funding from the program.

A senate version of the next farm bill, which funds food stamps, proposes cutting nearly $4 billion more over ten years.

Here in the corridor, people are already trying to prepare for a slimmer food stamp budget, but one local recipient says the cost of the cuts goes beyond her pocketbook.

In Linn and Johnson County alone nearly eight thousand people are on the food assistance program, and just last month, those recipients were notified of the new change. A change Donna Welch says is heartbreaking.

For Donna Welch every day is struggle

"I could be your friend and you might not know what I'm going through, she said.

You see Donna has back and neck problems and cares for her mother who suffers from PTSD.

As a result she took several days off work, but was eventually let go once her family and medical leave time ran out.

"Those missed times started counting against me, she said.

Unemployed, she and her two daughters live with her mother.

The family of four depends on her mother's social security and disability checks, they also receive food assistance benefits from the state.

"227 dollars does not buy a whole lot of stuff. you have to be really careful what you buy, she said, but with the expiration of the federal stimulus--that check is going to be  even smaller.

"What that means is an about 5.4 percent reduction across the board for the SNAP benefits and that's mandatory through the federal government, said Amy McHoy from the Iowa Department of Human Services.

The cut will affect the more than 400,000 Iowans, like Donna, who receive food assistance each month.

Iowans will see their benefits decrease about $11 for a household of one to about 50-dollars for a household of six.

"We would encourage everyone to be checking their benefits. Know their balance and plan accordingly, said McHoy.

It's a blow to Donna's pocketbook and plans for the holiday season.

"You just want to be able to do things the way you've always done them, she said.

She says all her family can do now is take things one day at time.

The Iowa Department of Human Services says families who need immediate food assistance should contact their local food bank.

That's something Donna says she already intends to do.
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