• Sat. May 21st, 2022

SNAP Stretch cuts funding, program asks commission for help

Feb. 23 – KINGWOOD – The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Stretch program doubles or triples the benefits when spent at qualifying farmers’ markets in West Virginia, including two in Preston County.

On Tuesday, extension worker Bill Shockey, Metheny’s Farmers Market owner Kim Stemple and Spencer Moss, executive director of the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, petitioned the Preston County Commission to fund the program for three years in using $396,522 in American Recovery Plan Act. funds.

Each year, $125,000 would be used to expand SNAP benefits and $7,147 would cover administrative costs, Shockey said.

He explained that the SNAP Stretch program started in 2018 and came to Preston County in 2020. People on SNAP see their money matched 1:1 when using the benefits of a Farmer’s Market. If they have a child with them, they get a 1:2 stretch and for seniors raising grandchildren, it’s 1:3.

“In West Virginia, we found that about 8%, or 26,000, of children are in the care of their grandparents,” Shockey said. “In Preston County, I think that number is around 600-700.”

Statewide, $286,000 was distributed in SNAP Stretch benefits in 2020 and $497,000 in 2021, Stemple said. Unfortunately, in 2022, the program budget is only $115,000.

In 2020, 18% of distributions, or $52,000, were in Preston County. In 2021, this figure has increased to 46% or $211,246. In 2022, it’s only $16,000, Stemple said.

A total of $980,000 went to the state’s agricultural economy and $410,000, or 42%, went to Preston County, Stemple said.

“SNAP Stretch has proven to be a very good deal for the economy of Preston County,” she said. “And in my market alone, I know I’ve purchased over $80,000 worth of produce grown in Preston County, goods, and paid over $48,000 and county business services. of Preston.”

Commission Chairperson Samantha Stone asked what the program plans to do after the three years, as the county does not have the tax base to support this type of annual contribution.

Moss explained that the program started with a USDA grant and is now funded by two USDA grants. The program also works with the Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Resources, and the Governor’s Office to secure a line item in the budget. There is precedent in other states.

Moss said Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt is 100% supportive of the program and asked for it to be put in his budget for two years, but the governor’s office didn’t put him in there.

However, she said the governor’s office likes the program and there are funding opportunities. Chairman Roger Hanshaw also thinks DHHR might be better for it, Moss said.

“I’m also looking at what it would look like for DHHR to run the program instead of a small nonprofit running the program a few years from now,” Moss said. “Just so there’s also some sustainability for the program.”

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