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West Virginians express concerns on proposed SNAP changes

President Trump's budget blueprint proposes cutting SNAP funding by more than 30 percent over the next decade. (WCHS/WVAH)

From Washington D.C. to Charleston, proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for 2019 are raising a lot of questions.

President Trump's budget blueprint proposes cutting SNAP funding by more than 30 percent over the next decade.

Tara Martinez, executive director of Manna Meal in Charleston, worries those cuts could impact the people she sees each day eating in the kitchen. Manna Meal serves 400 meals every day with no breaks.

"We work with a population, some of them are homeless, some of them are individuals that work and use Manna Meal to help supplement their income so they don't have to make that choice between paying their utility bills and buying food," Martinez said.

The services come at a high cost of about $200,000 each year. Martinez said if the Trump administration's proposed changes and budget cuts to SNAP are passed, she worries Manna Meal and other organizations would become overwhelmed and unable to support the people who need their services.

The budget blueprint for the 2019 fiscal year proposes a work requirement for food stamp recipients who are able to work and replacing some of the SNAP money with premade boxes of food. The changes would save SNAP more than 30 percent.

Caitlin Cook, communications director for the West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy, said the proposed changes would impact more than 70,000 West Virginians.

"I think it's quite difficult to live in the state of West Virginia and not know somebody who is employed in a low-wage industry and does not rely and use SNAP on a day to day basis. I think we should be working towards helping them with food security because food security and health care are actually things that help people get a job and maintain that job," Cook said.

Cook said the most important part of SNAP is connecting recipients to healthier food.

"I think any change to the snap program that would help connect West Virginia's with healthier food is a great idea," she said. "It's not only a great idea for those people who need food assistance, but it's a great idea for farmers across the state."

A work requirement is also outlined in House Bill 4001, currently making its way through the state legislature.

"There are too many lives at stake in our state that need some hope and need just a vision for prosperity for everyone in the state," Martinez said.

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