PORTLAND, Ore. - As the nation edges closer to the so-called "fiscal cliff," tens of thousands of Oregon families could soon be facing tough choices -- such as whether to heat their homes or feed their families.
Patti Whitney-Wise, executive director of Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, says cuts pending in the Senate version of the Farm Bill could make things a lot tougher for low-income families, and the state could soon be seeing a lot fewer federal dollars, as well.
"We're talking about at least $23 million a year here in Oregon," she said. "That affects over 88,000 families, so that's a lot of money."
Currently, Oregon is allowed to coordinate SNAP food assistance with Low-Income Household Energy Assistance benefits, but Whitney-Wise says changes in the Farm Bill could deprive many from getting that "heat and eat" help.
Some proponents of the cuts say they are needed to help trim the deficit, but Food Research and Action Center President Jim Weill says it's the wrong way to go.
"The public doesn't want to cut the food-stamp program as a way to solve the deficit," Weill said. "Seventy-five percent say that cutting SNAP is the wrong way to reduce spending, and the opposition is across the board from Democrats, Republicans and independents. They all think this is just a bad idea."
Whitney-Wise says Oregon is historically a high-cost, low-wage state that has been battling some of the highest hunger rates in the nation.
"We're working on changing that and creating better jobs,"she said. "But in the meantime, a lot of families here -- even if they're working full-time -- struggle to make ends meet."
More information is available at www.oregonhunger.org.
Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service prepared this story