$5 billion cut from food stamp benefits

WASHINGTON (AP) - Cuts to food stamp benefits will take effect on Friday, impacting millions of Americans.

The stimulus money that boosted those benefits for the last four years ran out Thursday night, and even more cuts are possible.

Congress has been going back and forth over how much more to cut the program.

But the bottom line is, families who rely on the government to help feed their children could be getting a lot less help.

The cuts that kick in Friday average $36 a month a family of four.

Alyssa Hammond and her four kids were already having a tough time making ends meet on minimum wage.

"I won't be able to afford the formula and things I need for my children throughout the month, you know, basic meals," Hammond said.

Food stamps, officially known as the supplemental nutritional assistance program (SNAP), serve 47 million Americans. They lost $5 billion overnight.

Officials say it's a myth that people on food stamps aren't working.

"We have so much economic insecurity -- people losing jobs, people going from full-time work to part-time work -- that half of all children on foods stamps at some point during childhood," said Jim Weill of the Food Action Research Center.

The farm bill that funds food stamps expired. Both Democrats and Republicans have proposed more cuts.

Senate Democrats want $4.5 billion. House Republicans are pushing for ten times that, almost $40 billion.

"It will actually result in somewhere between three and four million Americans who would otherwise be qualified for the program now being disqualified from the program, and probably not participating in the program," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

The deeper cuts would drop almost four million people from the program if they can't find a job.

The Republican plan would allow three months of benefits every three years unless the recipient works part-time, or is in job training.