Gov. John Kitzhaber decided this week that Oregon will be the fourth state to avoid food stamp cuts included in the federal farm bill.
The decision, made public Wednesday, means some 100,000 Oregon households won’t see their food stamp benefits decline after all. They were expected to lose benefits averaging $58 a month.
"It was a decision the governor made to ensure low-income families don't see their already minimal food budgets cut," said Rachel Wray, a spokeswoman for the governor.
Kitzhaber follows the governors of New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania in deciding to change the way the state allocates federal energy-assistance dollars to avoid the farm bill cuts.
The farm bill included cuts to food stamps through a program called “Heat and Eat” that’s used in 15 states. Participants who received at least $1 a year in federal energy assistance also got an increase in food stamps. The farm bill requires states to devote at least $20.
Now Oregon will allocate $2 million in additional energy aid to meet the new threshold -- and to avoid losing about $56 million a year in food stamps, said Christy Sinatra, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services.
New York will spend $6 million to keep $547 million.
The tactic has become controversial nationally, with critics calling it a “loophole” that blue-leaning states are exploiting to “leverage” their money. Some now question whether the farm bill, which included $8 billion in food stamp cuts over 10 years, will see much savings.