Thousands of Vermonters to see cut in food stamps

By  | 

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Degenerative spine disease keeps Roger Ballard in a wheelchair.

"I'm disabled, a homebound person," Ballard said. "I'm a veteran."

He also relies on government assistance including food stamps to live.

"I really rely on the fresh foods I can get," Ballard said.

But when a letter arrived earlier this month telling him his 3SquaresVT benefits were being cut, he wondered why and if he was alone.

"I can't understand why, when food prices keep going up, why we keep getting cut back? The ones that can least afford it," Ballard said.

We asked Deputy Commissioner Sean Brown at the Department for Children and Families, the state agency that administers the 3SquaresVT program. Funding is based on a federal government formula which considers the cost of living, the consumer price index, food prices and housing and utility costs. Brown explained that's why the state has very little say in benefit amounts.

"Some years it goes up, some years it stays the same and, unfortunately, as in this year, it's going down a little bit," Brown said.

We wanted to know by how much. Here's what we learned. Starting Oct. 1, the maximum benefit Vermonters can receive is going from $194 to $192 per month, down $2. The minimum benefit level is going from $16 down to $15.

"And the impact for the families in between that is most families will be seeing a slight reduction in their 3Squares Vermont benefits," Brown said.

A few dollars may not seem like a lot, but for Ballard it is.

"To me, it's a big difference," Ballard said. "It's not fair to us. Why is it that all this comes down on our shoulders to take the brunt of the financial problems that are going on in the country?"

While funding for food benefits are decreasing, the seasonal fuel program is predicted to get a boost. Brown says this year, Vermonters on fuel assistance should see an increase of about $50 on average.