Hawaii food stamp families affected by benefits cut

Hawaii food stamp families affected by benefits cut
Published: Oct. 21, 2013 at 9:34 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 21, 2013 at 10:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A reduction in the federal food stamp program means about 98,000 Hawaii families will see a smaller cost of living increase in the next year, state officials said Monday.

Last year, Hawaii food stamp families received a 19.5 percent cost of living increase. But this year, because the recession-era boost in food stamp funds expires at the end of the month, that cost of living increase for Hawaii families will be just 3.4 percent.

About 192,000 people in Hawaii receive food stamps from the federal government.

Brooke Davis and her one-year-old daughter Terriana are given $315 a month in food stamp benefits to buy food.

"It's hard.  It's really really hard out here to live on that," Davis said.

State officials said Davis and other Hawaii food stamp recipients won't see a cut in their benefits, unlike the average food stamp family in the rest of the country that will see a $36-a-month drop in benefits.

They said Hawaii is the only state in the country whose food stamp allotment isn't decreasing, even though a recession-era hike in benefits expires at the end of the month.

That's because cost-of-living increases known as COLAs for Hawaii's high prices will make up for the national cut, meaning recipients here won't be getting as much of an increase in food stamp money as they did last year.

"That's not good.  That's not good at all. I think they should help us more," Davis said.

The Hawaii Foodbank distributes food to the needy through 200 agencies like churches, shelters and other nonprofits.

"I'm sure they will definitely see an increase in the number of people who need emergency food services," said Lori Kaya, a spokeswoman for the Hawaii Foodbank.

Kaya said her organization is bracing for requests for more help since food stamp money won't increase by much in Hawaii, even though prices at the grocery stores are still going up.

"They've actually been seeing a lot more people, a lot more families who have never needed the services of the Food Bank before, starting from last year," Kaya said.