Washington – Gov . Dannel Malloy announced Monday that his administration will increase spending on heating assistance to thwart new federal regulations aimed at shrinking food stamp benefits for at least 50,000 households in the state.

“Connecticut, for one, will not stand by while our low-income families and elders are put at risk by Washington politics,” Governor Malloy said.  “I have directed my administration to take all necessary measures to protect Connecticut beneficiaries of the federal SNAP program from the negative consequences of the Farm Bill.”

The massive farm bill approved by Congress in February sought to cut the food stamp program by about $8.6 billion over ten years by ending a practice adopted by Malloy and other governors. Those governors  gave food stamp recipients as little as $1 in heating assistance benefits, so they would, under a federal formula, qualify for more food stamp assistance.

Under the farm bill, recipients will have to receive at least $20.01 in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, to qualify for increased benefits. Malloy estimated the increase in food stamp benefits is about $112 a year.

To avoid the cuts, Malloy has to shift an additional  $1.4 million into the LIHEAP program, but Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes  said it is  worth it.

“The governor’s directive to expend $1.4 million in available federal energy assistance funding will preserve approximately $66.6 million annually in SNAP benefits for households in Connecticut,” he said.

Malloy is at the vanguard of governors who aim to thwart the Obama administration’s attempt to save money on the food stamp program.

Vermont’s governor , Peter Shumlin, has said he’d do it too, and a few other Democratic governors, including Massachusetts Gov. Patrick Deval, are considering it. But recipients will see their benefits cut in many states.

No member of the Connecticut congressional delegation voted for the  farm bill because of the food stamp cuts. On Monday, they praised Malloy.

“I applaud the governor for moving to protect people in Connecticut whose wallets are stretched to the limits with this law,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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