The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, is a federal anti-hunger program that provides benefits to low-income households for purchasing food. In 2011, SNAP served 44.7 million individuals in an average month. SNAP is an "automatic stabilizer," meaning that its numbers of beneficiaries and amount of spending increase during tough economic times and decrease in times of economic prosperity. Unlike most other means tested programs, SNAP is broadly available to almost all households with low incomes regardless of age, disability, number of children or marital status. It also provides a modest amount of funding to support employment and training programs to help SNAP recipients obtain jobs that will reduce their need for SNAP benefits.
SNAP is usually reauthorized by Congress every five years as part of the Farm Bill. After years of debate and negotiations a 5-year Farm Bill reauthorization was finally agreed to and passed in the House on January 29th, 2014 and in the Senate on February 4th, 2014. The president signed the bill into law on February 7th, 2014.
The Agricultural Act of 2014 (H.R. 2542), as the Farm Bill was officially called, was far from perfect and received much support and criticism from all sides. The Nutrition title which includes provisions on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) did not include harsh provisions from the House-passed bill that would have cut benefits from an estimated 4 million individuals, including eliminating SNAP eligibility based on Categorical Eligibility and limiting the ability of states that have areas of high unemployment from waiving the time limit on SNAP for non-disabled adults without minor children during bad economic times. The nutrition title didn’t include provisions that would have imposed TANF-like work requirements on SNAP recipients, but did include $200 million for the creation and evaluation of pilot projects to test innovative SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) strategies to help participants get into the workforce, raise earnings and ultimately reduce SNAP participation.
The House and Senate passed Farm Bill also included an $8.6 billion cut to SNAP over 10 years by limiting “heat and eat” which a number of states use to increase SNAP benefits for some households. An estimated 850,000 households will see an approximately $90 a month decrease in SNAP.
CLASP will continue to work in coalition with many anti-hunger and anti-poverty organizations to protect SNAP from future cuts and to strengthen the program to serve low-income families.
Resources and Publications
FEB 06, 2014 I ELIZABETH LOWER-BASCH AND HELLY LEE
SNAP Policy Brief: College Student Eligibility Even after accounting for all financial aid, many low-income college students have thousands of dollars of unmet need, even when they attend low-cost institutions such as community colleges. One way to close this gap is to help students understand and access public benefits that can help them temporarily meet basic needs. One such example is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
FEB 04, 2014 I HELLY LEE
Congress Enacts Farm Bill After Years of Debate and Negotiations On January 29th the House passed H.R. 2642, a negotiated agreement between House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders on the 5-year Farm Bill. On February 4th, the Senate followed suit and also passed the conference report, which the President will soon sign into law. While disagreements over agricultural policy held up the final bill in the last weeks, the nutrition title of the bill, which includes authorization for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) was among the most contentious.
View all CLASP publications on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).