Facing nearly empty food pantry shelves and recent cuts in federal food assistance, many of our most needy New Jersey neighbors are about to see things get much worse. Before the state legislature adjourned for the summer, it passed a bill, supported by AARP, that would prevent recent moves by Congress from cutting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The problem is that Governor Chris Christie has yet to sign the bill into law.
The so-called “Heat and Eat” program has given states the ability to coordinate their heating and food assistance programs to help eligible residents, especially older and disabled people, make ends meet. The action taken by the state legislature requires no state money: It just changes the way federal Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance program (LIHEAP) funds are distributed. So it doesn’t add to our state’s budget problems.
But unless the governor signs the bill, as many as 160,000 households will lose up to $90 per month in SNAP benefits. For an older person receiving the minimum benefit, the cut will mean getting three days of meals compared to the three weeks of help they get now.
I hope Governor Christie understands this situation and will do what’s right for New Jersey.