Food stamps to be cut by 5 percent, more cuts possible

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Thousands of families in Kern County who receive food stamps under the Cal Fresh program will see a 5 percent cut starting Nov. 1. And further reductions are possible.

"This is across the board," said Pam Holiwell, assistant director with the Kern County Department of Human Services.

That means that for a family of three with no income, for example, food stamp benefits would be reduced from $526 a month to $497, a cut of $29, said Holiwell.

The 5 percent cut is the result of a temporary boost from the 2009 American Recovery Act stimulus bill. That temporary boost expires at the end of October.

"It means a lot to me, because it's hard, it's hard what I get, it's not enough for my kids," said Lupe Gonzalez.

The grandmother said she relies on $93 of food stamps a month to help feed her family of four. But, it often happens the food stamps run out before the month does.

"I'm telling you, by the end of the month there's nothing," she said, "rice and beans, whatever we can afford."

Holiwell said there's been an increase in the number of people receiving food stamps. Currently, there are 59,709 families with a total of 144,720 individuals receiving aid from food stamps in Kern County.

It is also possible Congress could cut food stamp benefits even further. The Senate and House are expected to resume debate over a five-year farm bill.

The main sticking point so far is over additional cuts to the food stamp program. While the Senate favors a farm bill that would make minor changes to the program, the Republican-controlled House recently passed a bill that cuts nearly $40 billion from the food stamp program over a 10-year period.

"Of course we would like to avoid any further reduction in food assistance to families in need," said United Way of Kern County executive director Della Hodson. "In the current political environment that may not be possible."