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 2012, SNAP served 46.6 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. The current Farm Bill expired on September 30, 2012 and was finally extended until the end of September 2013 in the American Taxpayer Relief Act, which Congress passed on January 1, 2013.
In spite of the partial government shutdown, October 2013 SNAP benefits were issued without interruption under the authority provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which temporarily increased benefit levels. The Continuing Resolution passed in October 2013 provides funding for TANF through early 2014, even though the Farm Bill has not yet been extended.
On June 10, 2013, the Senate approved a five-year Farm Bill by a vote of 66 to 27. The bill contains over $4 billion in cuts to SNAP. In late June, the House voted on its Farm Bill, which included nearly $21 billion in cuts to SNAP. The bill was defeated by a vote of 195-234, in part, because of extreme amendments regarding SNAP added on the House floor. The House tried again and ultimately passed an agriculture-only Farm Bill which left out SNAP and other nutrition provisions, on July 11th. On September 19, by a vote of 217-210, the House passed a SNAP bill that would cut benefits by $39 billion over 10 years, and would cut an estimated 3.8 million recipients off of nutritional assistance in 2014.
The House and the Senate have now appointed conferees to combine the two bills. Given the large differences between the House and Senate bills, it is not clear how these issues will be resolved. While SNAP can continue under appropriations bills even if the Farm Bill expires, there could be significant disruption to agriculture programs if they are not extended or reauthorized.
CLASP is working in coalition with many anti-hunger and anti-poverty organizations to fight for a Farm Bill that protects SNAP. Reauthorization of SNAP should:
- Protect funding for vital nutrition programs serving low-income families.
- Protect categorical eligibility, which streamlines the application process and allows states to raise the absurdly low asset limit used to determine eligibility.
- Exclude provisions that give states incentives to deny SNAP benefits to eligible individuals or families.
Resources and Publications
NOV 14, 2013 I ELIZABETH LOWER-BASCH
SNAP CUTS PUT YOUTH AT RISK In this fact sheet, CLASP describes how low-income young adults would be particularly affected by the House-passed Farm bill (H.R. 3102). Additionally, proposed work requirements on SNAP recipients could deny benefits to young parents and their children. The proposed cuts to SNAP would also disproportionately be harmful to African American and Hispanic youth.
NOV 13, 2013 I ELIZABETH LOWER-BASCH
HOUSE FARM BILL PLACES FAMILIES AT RISK This policy brief discusses restrictive work requirement provisions for adults in the House-passed nutrition title. If these provisions were enacted into law, entire families could be denited benefits even when members were willing to work but were unable to find employment. Furthermore, young adults would particularly be affected by these restrictions.
OCT 23, 2013 I ELIZABETH LOWER-BASCH
CLASP LETTER TO 2013 FARM BILL CONFEREES In this letter, CLASP urges members to oppose any changes that would restrict eligibility for SNAP, or make it harder for needy individuals and families to access food. In particular, CLASP is concerned about provisions that would limit protections for unemployed individuals; incentives for states to deny SNAP benefits and prevent broad based categorical eligibility; mandatory drug testing; further restrictions on ex-offenders and; restrictions on states' ability to allign SNAP with Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
sep 23, 2013 I ELIZABETH LOWER-BASCH
Taking Food from the Mouths of Children This article discusses the contrast between the needs of hungry families in America and the political will in Washington to help them. The U.S. Census reported that in 2012, 15 percent of people in America, and 21.9 percent of children, had household income that put them below the official poverty line. Despite these grim numbers, the U.S. House of Representatives voted for a bill, H.R. 3102, that would deny nutritional assistance to millions of individuals and cut benefits for others.
AUG 16, 2013 I ELIZABETH LOWER-BASCH AND LAVANYA MOHAN
SNAP Benefits to Drop in November: Congress Considers Further Cuts This November, every household receiving SNAP benefits will see their benefits decline when a provision of the 2009 Recovery Act expires. The average benefit per person per meal for a SNAP recipient will decrease from a paltry $1.50 to just $1.40. This cut will affect all 47 million SNAP recipients, including 22 million children and 9 million elderly and disabled people. In fiscal year 2014 alone, these cuts will add up to an estimated loss of $5 billion in SNAP benefits.
JUL 12, 2013 I HELLY LEE
House Passes Farm Bill Without SNAP In an unprecedented move, the House of Representatives passed a five year Farm Bill that focuses just on agriculture issues and omits the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other important provisions that address nutrition.
JUN 26, 2013 I ELIZABETH LOWER-BASCH
Why the Failure of the Farm Bill Was Good for Low-Income Families (Huffington Post Feature) The 2013 Farm bill, which usually enjoys support from both sides of the aisle, was defeated by an unlikely -- and bi-partisan -- coalition of those who opposed the deep cuts of more than $20 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
JUN 21, 2013 I HELLY LEE
Farm Bill Fails in the House: Would Have Wreaked Havoc on SNAP Over a hundred amendments were considered in just the two days it took for the House to debate and ultimately reject the Farm Bill by a final vote count of 195-234.
MAR 20, 2013 I HELLY LEE AND LAVANYA MOHAN
SNAP Benefits in the Crosshairs of Debate on Spending A comparison of SNAP and Medicaid funding in the House and Senate budget resolutions.
MAY 13, 2013 I HELLY LEE AND LAVANYA MOHAN
Proposed SNAP Cuts Would Result in Millions of Empty Dinner Tables Summary of the Senate and House Agriculture Committee 2013 Farm Bill mark up versions that include funding provisions for SNAP.
MAR 13, 2013 I ELIZABETH LOWER-BASCH
SNAP, Medicaid Block Grants Would Weaken the Already-Fragile Safety Net The Ryan budget, which proposes block granting for SNAP and Medicaid, will not protect the safety net as it claims.
JUL 13, 2012 I ELIZABETH LOWER-BASCH and PATRICK REIMHERR
Does the House Really Care About Work Incentives? A summary of the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on "implicit tax rates" wherein Congressional members focused on steeper cliffs rather than effective work incentives.
JUL 10, 2012 I HELLY LEE
House Proposes Deep Cuts to SNAP in Farm Bill A summary of the possible cuts to SNAP introduced through the Farm Bill and updates on the status of it.
JUn 14, 2012 I HELLY LEE
Senate Rejects SNAP Block Grant; Challenges Remain Background on and update to the SNAP cuts introduced and passed through the Senate Farm Bill.
may 25, 2012 I HELLY LEE
House Farm Bill Must Protect Nutrition Assistance CLASP explains the need to preserve the SNAP program, which is facing cuts under the Farm Bill.
MAY 09, 2012 I HELLY LEE
House Priorities about Protecting Defense Spending at Expense of Low Income Families While trying to agree on deficit reduction plans, the House Budget Committee has proposed deep automatic cuts, or sequestration, on programs vital to low-income working families and communities.
APR 24, 2012 I ELIZABETH LOWER-BASCH
Helping Vulnerable Americans Put Dinner on the Table, the SNAP Program Needs Citizen Support A description of the differences in proposed SNAP cuts in the Senate and House Farm Bills and why citizens should support the SNAP program during the current political and budgetary climate.
MAR 20, 2012 I ELIZABETH LOWER-BASCH
In Orwellian Fashion, Ryan Budget ‘Repairs' Safety Net by Slashing It This article describes Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposal to cut Medicaid and SNAP programs even though no significant savings can be achieved.
View all CLASP publications on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).