More than 600,000 Oklahomans who receive state food aid will see their monthly benefits reduced beginning Nov. 1, Department of Human Services officials announced Wednesday.
The benefits, formerly known as food stamps, are expected to be cut by $36 for a family of four with no earnings, DHS officials estimated.
The same family, officials said, stands to lose the equivalent of 21 meals a month.
“It will definitely affect me,” said Succentto Jackson, 34, of Oklahoma City, the mother of five children between the ages of 7 and 11. “Being a parent, you always have to find a way to make sure your children are fed.”
Jackson's children attend Britton Elementary School, where nearly every student is eligible for a free or reduced lunch.
She receives $659 per month in food assistance from the state, and said the cuts will force her to be more creative with her food budget.
“I'm not going to complain because they are helping me out,” she said.
Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, federal benefits were increased to counter the effects of the recession.
Those increased benefits are set to expire Oct. 31.
“It's going to be really difficult for these folks who are struggling to cut down even more,” said Mark Beutler, a DHS spokesman. “We want people to be aware of this early enough so they can plan their budgets.”
The state stands to lose $66 million in federal food assistance benefits based on 615,000 recipients, or 16 percent of the state's population, the spokesman said.
Beutler called the cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program “unprecedented” because every person receiving food aid will be affected, regardless of the amount of assistance they are receiving.
“There has never been an across-the-board cut like this to all SNAP recipients,” he said. “Every person will see a decrease.”
The U.S. House is expected to vote Thursday on a bill by Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, that would cut another $40 billion from SNAP over the next 10 years and toughen work requirements for recipients.
At a glance
Oklahoma sees record numbers
A record 629,956 Oklahomans received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits through DHS in August. The previous high was 625,004 recipients in September 2011.
The number of SNAP recipients grew by 6,800 between July and August, said Department of Human Services spokesman Mark Beutler.
“DHS is in the business of helping those in need,” he said. “These numbers indicate there are a lot of hungry Oklahomans out there who need our help.”