The Obama administration has agreed to extend increased food stamp benefits for recipients in Maine and 16 other states, according to a statement released Friday by the office of Rep. Chellie Pingree.
In 2008, food stamp recipients in Maine and the other states were provided extra benefits because of the high price of heating fuel and gasoline. This special waiver program was originally set to expire Oct. 1 of this year, but now the program will continue through March 2011.
The Obama administration has agreed not to reduce benefits by more than $20 a month after that, according to Pingree’s office.
“Families in Maine were facing some dramatic cuts in their food stamps,” Pingree said. “With Christmas and winter coming on, this is the worst possible time to pull the rug out from under people who are already struggling to make ends meet.”
About 40,000 Mainers received the increased food stamp benefits from the national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Pingree wrote to Obama this week, urging him to extend the program.
“In Maine, we rely on oil for 85 percent of our home heat and have the second highest rate of food insecurity in the nation … Low-income families are already going to be making tough choices this winter between paying for heat and food,” Pingree wrote to the president.
Pingree also worked with Kevin Concannon, the Undersecretary of Agriculture responsible for the program that distributes food stamp benefits. Concannon was the former Commissioner of Health and Human Services in Maine.