Reduced food stamp benefits means some adjusting for Jacksonville families

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Denise Belsch is among Jacksonville food stamp recipients signing up for local assistance since learning that benefits will be reduced starting Friday.

In her case, her benefits are already very low, at just $39 a month.

"It's kind of devastating because today your income don't go nowhere," Belsch said. "My income -- I'm on disability, and that pays my rent and my JEA. And then I'm broke."

It's all because extra funds from the 2009 stimulus package are due to expire on Halloween. That means shopping at the grocery store could be very different for roughly 3.6 million Floridians, with an estimated 193,000 here in Duval County.

In total, the benefits will shrink by about 5 percent per household.

To break it down, a single-person household will see an $11 difference once the cuts take effect. A two-person household will see a $20 difference. A four-person household will see a difference of $36. And for six people, they'll lose $52 a month.

Despite the concern some recipients may feel about the cuts, Department of Children and Families spokesman John Harrell said he hasn't gotten many calls, which he said could be a good sign.

"We're certainly optimistic that as the economy has continued to recover, the people have been able to get more hours at their jobs," Harrell said. "They've been able to make some additional income. Keep in mind, the food stamp program is meant to be temporary. It's meant to help people if they have a shortfall in their income, to make up for that shortfall."

The House and Senate are expected to discuss these cuts again on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Belsch prays there will be an answer soon.

"There are people out here that really, really need help," she said. "Like me, I was one of those people that worked their whole lives. Now that I need help, I can't get it."

Harrell said if these cuts are really affecting you and you don't know what to do, your best option is to pick up the phone and dial 211. There, you can can learn more about local assistance in helping you and your family during a time of need.

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