Benefit payments from the US government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, will be slashed drastically on November 1, the first across-the-board cut in food stamp benefits in US history.
The cuts will amount to $5 billion per year, and a total of $11
billion through 2016. The average household of three will receive a
benefit cut of $29 a month, or $319 per year.
“The depth and breadth of the SNAP cuts that take effect in November
are unprecedented,” wrote Dottie Rosenbaum and Brynne Keith-Jennings of
the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). “Past cuts have
affected specific states or groups, but they have not affected all
participants nor been as large as these cuts.”
The CBPP noted, “The cut is equivalent to about 16 meals a month for a
family of three based on the cost of the U.S. Agriculture Department’s
‘Thrifty Food Plan.’” Once the cuts go through, SNAP assistance will
amount to less than $1.40 per person per meal, according to the CBPP.
One in seven Americans receives food stamp assistance, up from 9
percent of the population in 2008 to nearly 15 percent in 2012. The
program helps feed 48 million people, up from 26 million in 2007.
The cuts are the result of the expiration of the 2009 Recovery Act’s
temporary increase in food stamp assistance, which neither the Democrats
nor Republicans seriously proposed to prevent. The expiration of the extension was not scheduled to take place till
2015, when SNAP benefits are slated to increase. But congressional
Democrats used $14 billion that was set aside for food stamps to fund
other legislation. In 2010 the Democrats promised to restore the funding
before the aid extension expired.
The Democrats have largely kept silent about the slated cut to food
stamp aid, and the White House has made no official mention of the
benefit cuts in the past week. The media has likewise blacked out the
issue, with neither the New York Times, Washington Post or Wall Street
Journal carrying stories on the scheduled cut to food stamp aid during
the same period.
Over 80 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with incomes below
the federal poverty line, an abysmally low $19,530 annually for a family
of three, and 40 percent of recipients live in deep poverty, defined as
below $9,765 annually for a family of three.
The share of food stamp recipients who are working has risen
significantly. Nearly one third of SNAP recipients were working in 2010,
up from less than 20 percent two decades before. Of those who do not
work, the vast majority are disabled, elderly or under age. The number
of people who receive food stamps will continue to rise through 2014,
according to projections by the Congressional Budget Office and three quarters of
households who receive SNAP benefits “included a child, a person age 60
or older, or a disabled person.”
The typical household receiving SNAP had an income of $731 per month,
or about $8,800 per year, not counting SNAP benefits, according to the
Congressional Budget Office. The average SNAP payment per household that
year was $287, or $4.30 per person per day. Over 21 million children—more than 1 in 4—live in a household that
receives SNAP benefits, according to the CBPP report, and nine million
people with disabilities receive SNAP benefits.