SNAP Benefits to Drop in November: Congress Considers Further Cuts

Aug 16, 2013

By Elizabeth Lower-Basch and Lavanya Mohan

Update: On September 16, H.R. 3102, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013, was introduced in the House. As anticipated, it would prevent states from waiving the limit limits on SNAP receipt for childless unemployed workers and would restrict categorical eligibility. CBO estimates that these changes would cut off 3.8 million individuals from SNAP in 2014, and would cut SNAP and other nutrition programs by $39 billion over 10 years. This bill may be brought up for a vote as soon as Thursday, September 19.

Beginning November 2013, 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.

But it doesn't stop there. Congress is considering even more cuts to the SNAP program, putting millions of households at greater risk of food insecurity and hunger.

Reprinted from - Stacy Dean and Dorothy Rosenbaum, SNAP Benefits Will Be Cut for All Participants In November 2013, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, August 2, 2013, http://www.cbpp.org/files/2-8-13fa.pdf.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, SNAP - Fiscal Year 2014 Cost-of Living Adjustments and ARRA Sunset Impact on Allotments, August 1, 2013, http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/rules/Memo/2013/FY_2014_COLA_memo.pdf.

The Senate-passed Farm Bill proposes an additional $4.1 billion in cuts to SNAP over 10 years. The bill would limit the "Heat and Eat" program, which allows states to coordinate SNAP with the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The restrictions on "Heat and Eat" would mean that 500,000 households would lose about $90 per month in SNAP benefits. Poor elderly and disabled households would be particularly affected.

The House has brought forth two proposals, both seeking deep cuts to SNAP. The House Agriculture Committee's comprehensive Farm Bill, which was defeated on the House floor, called for $20.5 billion in cuts over 10 years. These steep cuts would have limited the "Heat and Eat" payments for 850,000 households, which include 1.7 million people. Additionally, the proposal restricted categorical eligibility, a state option that allows the alignment of SNAP eligibility with other low-income programs. As we have discussed, categorical eligibility helps states cut through red tape by streamlining benefits eligibility and access. The bill's proposed changes in categorical eligibility rules would have meant that almost 2 million people would altogether lose SNAP benefits, and 210,000 poor children would also lose free school meals. Further, prior to the defeat of the bill, amendments passed on the House floor gave states financial incentives to impose harsh work requirements and sanctions, mandated drug testing, and further penalized ex-offenders. This bill was defeated on the House floor by a combination of Democrats who opposed these cuts to the SNAP program and Republicans who wanted deeper cuts.

After the defeat of the Agriculture Committee's Farm Bill, the House proposed and passed a version of the Farm Bill that did not include SNAP provisions. House Republicans are now expected to release a new SNAP bill next month that would impose even further cuts to SNAP. The new House bill proposes $40 billion in cuts over 10 years, including all the cuts and negative provisions in the previously-defeated House Farm Bill. Further, this new proposal removes the provision that allow states the flexibility to suspend harsh time limits on SNAP participation during times of high unemployment; this provision is targeted towards unemployed adults without children. Forcing states to impose strict time limits regardless of how high local unemployment may be would deny two to four million unemployed workers SNAP benefits, even if they were willing to work.

* The Senate and House Farm Bills and expected House Republican Proposal seek cuts over a 10 year period.

Source: Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Statement of Robert Greenstein, President, On the House Republican Leadership's New SNAP Proposal, August 2, 2013, http://www.cbpp.org/files/8-2-13fa-stmt.pdf; Stacy Dean and Dorothy Rosenbaum, SNAP Benefits Will Be Cut for All Participants In November 2013, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, August 2, 2013, http://www.cbpp.org/files/2-8-13fa.pdf; Coalition on Human Needs, "CHN: Senate Passes Farm Bill with Cuts to SNAP as House Prepares to Bring Even More Devastating Bill to the Floor," July 17, 2013, http://www.chn.org/human_needs_report/chn-senate-passes-farm-bill-with-cuts-to-snap-as-house-prepares-to-bring-even-more-devastating-bill-to-the-floor/; Food Research and Action Center, "Farm Bill 2013," http://frac.org/leg-act-center/farm-bill-2012/.

Current SNAP benefits are not enough for most households, and these additional cuts would make things even worse for poor, vulnerable families. CLASP urges Congress to extend SNAP and reject harmful cuts to benefits or restrictions on eligibility.

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