Cumberland Times-News

Local News

December 2, 2013

County will not intervene after cuts to food stamp program

Commissioner denies citizen’s request for food bank credit line

CUMBERLAND — The Allegany County Commission president says that county government stepping in to help people suffering from cuts in the food stamp program isn’t possible and not the proper role for county government.

“I personally don’t believe that local government is the answer here. Simply put, we don’t have the resources to help underwrite program adjustments made by any federal agency,” said Commissioner Michael McKay.

Kevin Shaffer of LaVale asked commissioners during their Nov. 21 business meeting in Barton to aid the Western Maryland Food Bank via a line of credit. Shaffer proposed that the county commissioners offer a $100,000 line of credit to the food bank. Shaffer subsequently wrote a letter to the editor of the Times-News to express his views.

Shaffer said the local impact of the issue was made worse by what he said was the commissioners’ failure to bring good-paying jobs to the county.

At the meeting, no commissioner was willing to make a motion to consider Shaffer’s proposal. Commissioners said state policy helps make Allegany County’s economy difficult. “Given the loss of state revenue to local governments in areas of highway user funds and the shift in teachers pension liability, providing the basics to our citizens is difficult enough,” McKay said.

 Shaffer replied to those statements in his letter.

“The problem with that logic is that Gov. (Martin) O’Malley is the governor of the richest state in the Union with a median household income of about $71,000 and therefore, he knows what he is doing regarding recruiting good-paying jobs to our state,” wrote Shaffer. Shaffer suggested using a portion of the state’s disparity grant to Allegany County to back up the line of credit.

McKay said even if the commission wanted to help, options are limited.

“The county hasn’t received a request from the food bank in response to any announced reductions in the Federal Food Stamp Program. And no, the county does not have the authority to provide a private entity such as the food bank with a line of credit,” McKay said. McKay said he supports the work of the food bank.

“The role our local food bank plays in the community is an important one. County employees have supported local food drives in the past and I’m confident they will do so in the future when asked,” McKay said.

During a back and forth with Shaffer, Commissioner Bill Valentine made a statement that 45 percent of U.S. citizens receive food stamps. The number is closer to about 15 percent, according to the Census Bureau, which means more than 47 million Americans.

According to the Allegany County Department of Social Services, in September there were 7,700 households receiving food stamps or 15,260 individuals receiving benefits in the program.

“We should do something about that,” Shaffer said during the commission meeting.

Food stamp benefits were cut nationwide beginning in November. The average value of the food stamps received per household in the county is $221.28 per month.

Cuts to the food stamp program could cause a decrease of around $36 per month for a family of four, $29 for three, $20 for a family of two and an $11 loss for an individual.

The local food bank director was contacted by the Times-News about Shaffer’s proposal.

“We are thankful for the way the community is contributing through food drives and fundraisers. As the need grows we may look to other community resources, as well as the city and county,” said Diana Loar, the executive director of the Western Maryland Food Bank. Loar said she was not involved in Shaffer's request.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.

Staff Writer Greg Larry contributed to this story.

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