The government shutdown is hurting the most vulnerable members of our community. NYTimes's Ginia Bellafante puts that pain in numbers:
If you live alone and receive $200 a month in food stamps (the maximum the government allows for a single person and the equivalent of $2.30 per meal), your budget remains unlikely to accommodate baby spinach and much of the healthy, essential, “good” food that in this city and so much of the country has become its own religion, at the levels of both culinary passion and public policy. We hail the fact that greenmarkets accept electronic benefit transfer cards, but availability and affordability are hardly tandem principles.
Last year, 32 percent of New Yorkers reported difficulty affording their food needs, according to a research conducted by the Food Bank for New York City. Between 2007 and 2012, the price of food in the New York metropolitan area rose by 16 percent; for those receiving subsidies from the government, that price hike is now compounded with the cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that are going into effect with the shutdown. Bellafante explains:
Before the government ceased operations, as you may recall, House Republicans were busy trying to ensure $40 billion in cuts to the program. Whatever further reductions are promulgated at the Congressional level will come in addition to predetermined cuts already scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 1.
The New York City Coalition Against Hunger estimates that these cuts would amount to $205 million in New York City alone, with a family of four, for instance, potentially receiving $36 less a month to spend on food. The cuts essentially scale back SNAP benefits to levels set before the recession. The 2009 Recovery Act provided the program with an increase, which expires next month.
The slow economic recovery is another worsening factor. Just in the Bronx, where 15,000 jobs were added in the past five years, the average unemployment rate is 12.7 percent, while 5 years ago it was 11.9 percent.