SNAP Cuts Would Crush Families, State Budgets

By Victoria Palacio

President Trump’s FY 2018 budget proposal would cut more than $193 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over 10 years. These cuts, together with plans to block-grant Medicaid and eliminate home energy assistance, represent an all-out attack on low-income families as well as state budgets.

The Trump budget would fundamentally change SNAP’s structure—­requiring states to pay for a share of benefits. This share, on average, would begin at 10 percent in 2020 and increase to 25 percent by 2023. That would be a massive cost shift to states. Many would respond by cutting benefits or severely limiting eligibility, undermining the national guarantee of food assistance to everyone who qualifies.  Moreover, SNAP would become less responsive to the next recession.

The president’s proposed budget would also restrict the number of time limit waivers given to areas with high unemployment, which would reduce SNAP access for unemployed people in distressed communities. Moreover, the proposal would cap benefits for large households, eliminate the minimum benefit, and restrict SNAP recipients from saving money or earning their way to economic security. The budget would also impose a fee on retailers to accept SNAP at their stores. This would reduce community grocery options, especially in food deserts and rural areas.

How cuts would affect families

SNAP provides nutrition assistance to our most vulnerable populations: low-income working families, children, seniors, disabled people, and unemployed/underemployed adults. In 2015, SNAP lifted 4.6 million people out of poverty. The program has a broad reach, but benefits are modest. Each participant receives just $1.40 per meal on average. One in eight U.S. households (15.8 million) still suffers from food insecurity.

SNAP is an efficient program without much room for cuts. It responds to economic and population changes, expanding when need rises and contracting when need declines. Cutting SNAP by $193 billion over 10 years wouldn’t permit the flexibility needed to combat hunger.

Slashing SNAP would also undermine physical and mental health in our most vulnerable communities. The program is proven to improve low-income children’s long-term health and economic wellbeing. When children don’t eat enough, they can experience iron deficiency, anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder, and other long-term health consequences. Elderly people, who make up a significant percentage of SNAP recipients, are also strongly at risk of poor health outcomes and depression.

When SNAP benefits are reduced or taken away, low-income families are forced to spend more of their budget on food. That means less money for housing, clothing, transportation, and medical expenses. The president’s proposed cuts would undermine parents’ ability to work, children’s success in school, and every other aspect of low-income people’s lives.

How the proposal would squeeze state budgets

The budget would shift a portion of SNAP costs to states. They would have to absorb, on average, a quarter of the cost of benefits. Many states wouldn’t be able to shoulder the additional expense, especially in times of recession when SNAP is most needed. Consequently, states would be discouraged from supporting their most vulnerable residents.

Cutting SNAP would also hurt state economies. Every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates up to $9 of economic activity. When people spend their SNAP dollars, it creates business for farmers, retailers, wholesale distributors, and transportation systems that deliver the goods and services. That activity then trickles down into other economic sectors.

Cutting SNAP is the wrong way forward

The proposed budget would create hardships and burdens for families and states. It would squeeze state budgets, encouraging them to drop SNAP recipients; drastically reduce SNAP’s economic stimulus; and undermine SNAP’s promise to ensure no one goes hungry in the U.S. That’s simply the wrong way forward for families and the country.