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Looming Stimulus Cuts Could Mean Less Food On The Table In Pa.

By Community Affairs reporter Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Boosts to food stamp benefits provided by federal stimulus dollars in 2009 are set to expire. As a result, Pennsylvania will lose close to $200 million.

A new report out of Washington says nearly 1.8 million Pennsylvanians will see a loss in federal food stamp benefits come fall--cutting roughly $36 per month for a family of four.

"The food stamp benefit is already inadequate, it doesn't cover meals through the end of the month," says Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. She says less money means less access to fresh fruits, vegetables and meat and a loss of $183 million to state businesses.

"This cut is only the beginning," she says. "The house of representatives wants to make even more cuts to food stamps."

"Some of us need a helping hand to get back on our feet," says Erika, 32. A single mother of two boys, she says she uses every dollar of her $390 monthly benefit.

"Those food stamps really helped a lot," says Erika, who was laid off from her job last November. She planning to go back to school in September to retool for a new career. "If they cut anything it's going to make things a little more difficult."

"The amount cut doesn't seem like much, but it adds up," says Julie Zaebst, interim director at the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger. "It equates to 21 fewer meals that they can afford with their food stamps each month."

Zaebst says decreased benefits will mean increased stress on food pantries. She says while there's very little families and seniors can do at this point to stop the stimulus from expiring, but they need take action to stop further losses.

"We're encouraging our representatives in Washington to support the program this fall," she says. "Additional cuts in addition to these slated to take place in November would really be a one-two punch for families and seniors."

Roughly $43 million Americans will feel the impact of the stimulus cuts beginning November 1st.

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