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Four Ways SNAP Encourages Work

July 26, 2017 at 2:00 PM

SNAP (formerly food stamps), the nation’s most critical anti-hunger program, also encourages work, our new report and video explain. SNAP’s benefit structure rewards earnings over unearned income (such as Social Security or cash assistance), which incentivizes participants to work and seek higher wages or work more hours.

SNAP’s design includes:

  • An entitlement structure that guarantees food assistance is available to all eligible applicants when they need it. If SNAP recipients take new, higher-paying jobs that raise their incomes above SNAP eligibility limits, they can still return to the program later if their income falls.
  • An earned income deduction that favors earned income over other income. SNAP disregards 20 percent of earned income when calculating benefits. As a result, a household with earnings will receive a larger SNAP benefit than a household of the same size and gross income in which income comes from unearned sources.
  • A benefit phase out structure that reduces benefits gradually as income rises. This means, for most families, SNAP continues to serve as an income support as they earn more and work toward financial stability and self-sufficiency
  • A state option to ease SNAP’s modest benefit “cliff.” This allows states to further smooth the phase out of SNAP benefits, protecting the very few households with incomes close to the federal SNAP limit that would abruptly lose benefits.

Because of SNAP’s benefit structure, participants are almost always better off taking a job, accepting more hours, or making a higher wage. SNAP thus encourages work and plays an important role in disrupting the cycle of poverty.