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HEAP Changes in Farm Bill
ELMIRA (WENY) -- It's taken about three years for the Farm Bill to pass. A major sticking point has been Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as Food Stamps. The Food Bank of the Southern Tier says it's still too early to gauge the impact the bill will have on households they serve, but they know people in New York will feel the pinch with one new aspect.
The new five year bill includes tightened regulations on the HEAP program, which people in New York can use to help with heating costs. In the past, people who qualified for HEAP were automatically enrolled for SNAP benefits. The new bill stops that.
Natasha Thompson, President and CEO of The Food Bank of the Southern Tier thinks the change will impact senior citizens and disabled people the most because of issues with access and mobility.
"For seniors, the issue of stigma is a big one and also mobility. And for folks who are disabled whether mental disability or physical disability, folks facing those issues tend to be isolated, may not know where to go for help, they may not be able to get to their local food pantry and the pantry may not be able to come to them," said Thompson.
Despite the cuts, the bill does include an increase to the Emergency Food Assistance Program, known as TFAP. This program pays for about 15-20% of the food that the Southern Tier Food Bank distributes each year.
"Unfortunately, we don't believe that the amount of additional amount of food that we'll be receiving from TFAP is going to be enough to make up the cuts that in the Food Stamp program," said Thompson. "Not just through the most recent Farm Bill, but also the cuts we saw in November as a result of the sunsetting of the stimulus funds."
Natasha says the $8.5 billion cuts to the SNAP program is much better than one version of the Farm Bill, which proposed to cut $40 billion.