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Food stamp cuts cancel out the COLA boost for many SSI recipients

On Oct. 30, the Social Security Administration announced that beneficiaries of Supplemental Security Income will indeed be receiving slightly more in benefits next year due to a cost of living adjustment, or COLA. The 2014 COLA will increase benefits by 1.5 percent, which is roughly in line with last year’s increase of 1.7 percent.

Approximately 8 million low-income people with serious disabilities rely on SSI for a subsistence-level of income to cover basic needs, such as food, shelter and clothing. SSI benefits vary but, according to the Social Security Administration, a single SSI beneficiary receiving $710 per month in 2013 will receive $721 next year. For couples who both receive SSI, the increase is smaller. A 2013 household benefit of $1,066 per month will increase in 2014 to $1,082. Essentially, singles would get $21 more each month, while couples would share an increase of $16.

Yet due to a Congressional compromise over the farm bill, funds for the federal food stamp program were cut for all beneficiaries. That program is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP and, unfortunately, a significant portion of SSI beneficiaries rely on SNAP to supplement their food budgets.

In fact, 17 percent of all SNAP beneficiaries also rely on SSA. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, however, the cut in SNAP benefits will pretty much wipe out the COLA increase.

For single people receiving the maximum SNAP benefit, Congress cut the monthly payment by $11 beginning this month. For households of two, SNAP was cut by $20, the CBPP calculated.

"They wanna keep the poor poor," charged one SSI beneficiary interviewed by the Huffington Post. "Twenty bucks a month might not seem like much, but that makes a big difference when you go to the store."

It should not be controversial for our government to provide at least the most fundamental subsistence for people whose disabilities keep them from working. Surely basic needs like food, clothing and shelter aren’t too much to ask.

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