RENO, NV - Funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was reduced Friday, as a 2009 stimulus bill expired. The resulting cuts will impact more than 300-thousand Nevadans.
Tami Nicholson lives in a spare apartment in north Reno with her three sons.
A former medical lab technician, she's been unable to work, disabled for the past 17 years with reflexive pathetic dystrophy and fibromyalgia, conditions that often leave her bed-ridden with pain throughout her body.
The combined family income, her social security checks and that of her youngest son, total just over $15-hundred dollars a month.
Food stamps help stretch their budget, but with today's cutback, that aid now amounts to just $88 dollars a month.
"We won't even be able to get enough food for two weeks," says Nicholson, "and my nine year old son is home schooled so he has to eat during the day and no one gets to eat except dinner at night."
Today's cut comes from a 2009 economic stimulus bill expiring, but Congress is considering even deeper cuts and that worries her.
She has little argument with critics who say some Americans abuse the benefit, but says that criticism shouldn't be aimed at the disabled and elderly.
Nicholson and her sons are caught in a system that packages disincentives with its benefits.
One of her sons held a minimum wage job, but that income wiped out their rent assistance. It was a wash.
So, he and his brother have gone back to school, arranging their schedule so someone can be home with her most of the time. Eventually they'll be able to support the family.
It's the kind of story that could add new layers to the debate in Washington, but for the Nicholson family, it just means lean times ahead.
"We cut back on what we have. At times we just have sandwiches for dinner, peanut butter and jelly. At times I don't even eat. I make sure my kids eat before I do."
Friday's cuts will put added pressure on the Food Bank of Northern Nevada and the various charities it supplies.
Officials there say in the first year of these cuts, there will be $7 million dollars in lost benefits and 2.7 million meals lost.