After Friday, states will lose $5 billion in food aid

October 28, 2013
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) will co-chair the House/Senate conference committee on the farm bill, beginning Wednesday (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) will co-chair the House/Senate conference committee on the farm bill, beginning Wednesday (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Extra funding for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, one of the most impactful elements of the 2009 economic stimulus, expires Friday, meaning poor families in all 50 states will immediately see steep cuts in government food aid.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided a 13.6 percent funding increase to SNAP recipients beginning in April 2009, money the bill’s backers said would make its way quickly into the economy. But that extra funding ends Nov. 1. Every one of the 48 million SNAP recipients will see their benefits cut in their next checks.

The end of the extra funding will save the federal government $5 billion over the course of 2014, and a total of $11 billion from fiscal years 2014 to 2016, according to an analysis by the left-leaning Center of Budget and Policy Priorities.

SNAP benefits disproportionately help families with children. More than 21 million children — one in four children in the country today — live in households that participate in the program. More than two-thirds of the $5 billion the government saves will come from households that include children.

Percentage of a state’s population that participates in SNAP:

“The depth and breadth of the SNAP cuts that take effect in November are unprecedented. Past cuts have affected specific states or groups, but they have not affected all participants nor been as large as these cuts,” the CBPP’s Dottie Rosenbaum and Brynne Keith-Jennings wrote in a report detailing the cuts.

For an average household of three, the cuts mean $29 less per month — $319 per year, or about $1.40 per person per meal, the center found.

Given the federal nature of the increase, every SNAP recipient in every state will see their rates cut. California and Texas will lose out on more than $400 million each, while states such as Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico — all states where more than 20 percent of the population receives SNAP benefits — will lose tens of millions more.

Cutting SNAP dollars can mean cutting economic activity, too. Because SNAP recipients use their benefits so quickly, studies estimate that every $1 in SNAP money creates $1.70 in economic activity.

SNAP cuts by state (in millions):

The cuts come as a House/Senate conference committee begins negotiations on the farm bill, negotiations in which SNAP will take center stage. A Senate-passed version of the bill cuts $4 billion from SNAP over the next decade, while a House-passed version cuts almost $40 billion over the same time period. The 41 members of the conference committee are scheduled to hold their first public meeting Wednesday.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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Reid Wilson | October 28, 2013