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Editorial: A new Black Friday this year

Black Friday arrived early this year.

No, we’re not talking about the Black Friday that’s a label for the day after Thanksgiving ... the traditional start of holiday shopping season.

We’re labeling Friday, Nov. 1, as “Black Friday” because of what’s happening today: Increased benefits from a federal stimulus package attached to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, will expire today.

This means that the 47 million people who use this program will be receiving less aid when it comes getting food.

Some $5 billion will be trimmed from a program that helps 14 percent of all households in the United States get additional food to put on their tables.

Here’s how it plays out, according to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

“The Nov. 1 benefit cut will be substantial. A household of three, such as a mother with two children, will lose $29 a month — a total of $319 for November 2013 through September 2014, the remaining 11 months of fiscal year 2014.

“The cut is equivalent to about 16 meals a month for a family of three based on the cost of the U.S. Agriculture Department’s ‘Thrifty Food Plan.’”

In short, food assistance is being taken away from those who can least afford it. “The SNAP benefit cut will make it even harder for families to put food on the table,” continues the Center’s report. “More than 80 percent of SNAP households have monthly income below the federal poverty line ($19,500 a year for a family of three), and more than 40 percent live in deep poverty, with income below half of the poverty line.

“The Recovery Act’s temporary benefit increase boosted the ability of households to provide adequate food for their families, known as ‘food security,’ research shows.”

In Massachusetts, the cut will have an impact on 889,000 residents, including some 334,000 children.

This is a grim picture, one that can get darker as Congress ponders further cuts to SNAP as part of the negotiations over the Farm Bill. House Republicans, for example, are pitching a plan to tighten up who qualifies for benefits, therefore potentially cutting $39 billion over a 10-year period.

What Congress should be focusing on is not taking away vital aid, but instead on growing the economy so that jobs that make SNAP aid unnecessary are readily available.

To do anything less in providing food aid for Americans is a disgrace.

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