CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One in five West Virginians gets money to buy food from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as the Food Stamp program.
Nearly 40 percent of SNAP beneficiaries are children. Another 27 percent are elderly or disabled adults, while 22 percent are adults living with needy children.
Gary Zuckett, executive director of the West Virginia Citizens Action Group, chaired a panel at the Covenant House in Charleston on Wednesday to oppose pending legislation that would cut SNAP food benefits by more than $40 billion over the next 10 years.
Those cuts would hurt up to 6 million hungry families, children, senior citizens and veterans, under legislation supported by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., Zuckett said.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas introduced legislation on Monday launching efforts by House Republican leaders to cut SNAP by $40 billion over the next 10 years.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-profit group in Washington, D.C., points out the temporary boost to SNAP benefits under the 2009 Recovery Act is scheduled to end on Nov. 1. If that boost ends, it would cut $29 a month for a family of three in every SNAP household.
Ellen Allen, director of Covenant House, said, "We feed 172 people a day. Thirty-two families eat here every day. We also help people with showers, laundry, water and haircut vouchers.
"Under the proposed cuts, $29 a month less would come to families like these. SNAP should stay in place," Allen said.
Sean O'Leary, from the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy, said, "In 2012, 4 million people were lifted out of poverty by the SNAP program. And for every $1 spent on the SNAP program, local communities get $1.70 in increased economic activity.
"This proposed legislation would eliminate SNAP benefits for unemployed people looking for jobs who can't find jobs.
"We have 7.5 percent unemployment in West Virginia right now. And there are three unemployed workers for every job opening.