SNOHOMISH COUNTY, WASH. - For nearly two weeks now families have been forced to make tough decisions trying to figure out where their next meal will come from.
It comes as a result of SNAP food benefit funds, meant to help during the pandemic, being cut. At least 520,00 families in Washington were impacted. To put in perspective, over a million people are now without their usual stipend.
For 57-year-old Jon Howe and his spouse Alan Gossett this means they're now debating putting food on the table or quality of life.
Howe came home in 2021, their home out in Snohomish County specially fitted for his care and needs, filled with personal belongings, a first in five years while he was in a nursing facility. He was diagnosed with ALS, in 2012 with care, he’s now living with primary lateral sclerosis.
They have since been able to enjoy the little things.
"Just having him here and being able just to have a bit of normalcy, watch a movie or have a dinner together," Gossett said.
That's what the last two years have been for Gossett and Howe, normal.
"We have all kinds of wildlife here that don't exist in Seattle, that I can see up a window," Howe said.
"We've been able to maintain his residual health and give him a far better quality of life," Gossett said.
A comfort now being threatened. They were one of the thousands of families who received a letter from the Department of Social and Health Services at the beginning of 2023. Inside was an update on how much the couple would be getting per month once the Public Health Emergency funding, for the pandemic, ended on March 1.
"Opening that one was just terrifying," Gossett said.
From now on they’d get $13 a month.
"It just floored me," Gossett said.
Gossett says, with the amount of care required for Howe, they live off his Social Security Disability of roughly $1900 a month. They lost $513 in food benefits.
"We're already poor even when we have food stamps, but we are beyond poor without them," Howe said.
"We just don't have the money to make up that sort of loss," Gossett said.
They're now faced with a difficult decision – sending Howe back to a nursing facility.
"We just won't be able to continue to care for John because it will become unaffordable to care for him at home," Gossett said.
A painful reality for Howe, who says going back to a nursing home means losing his freedom.
His autonomy, leaving behind not only his books, his partner and caregiver but also his furry companion, Coco who's always by his side.
When you have a disability that keeps you basically bedridden you have enough on your plate you shouldn't have to be worried about whether or not there's going to be dinner tonight, let alone whether or not you're going to have your freedom taken away from you for the rest of your life," Howe said.
Fox 13 reached out to DSHS who said they're encouraging everyone to update their income and home status to reevaluate their funding. They're also reminding families there are other programs like the SNAP Match Programs like the Market Match and Produce Match.
Unfortunately for the couple, they say they don't live near a farmer's market and are trying to raise funds to keep Howe's at home. They started their own GoFundMe campaign to ensure he doesn't have to return to a nursing home.
Governor Jay Inslee has stated his support for House Bill 1784 – which seeks to help families with food costs.
The bill has been passed by the House, it was heard in the Senate Monday, and if approved it would be immediately available for spending.