Vice President for Food Assistance Policy
President Trump’s 2018 budget proposes to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) by more than $193 billion over the next ten years — a more than 25 percent cut — through a massive cost shift to states, cutting eligibility for millions of households and reducing benefits for hundreds of thousands more, as we write in a new analysis. The unemployed, the elderly, and low-income working families with children would bear the brunt of the cuts.
Among other cuts to SNAP, the President’s budget would:
Abandon the national commitment to provide low-income Americans a SNAP benefit sufficient to afford a basic diet. SNAP benefits are now set federally and reflect the cost of a bare-bones healthy diet. As a part of the cost shift to states, the Agriculture Department would let states cut benefit levels as a cost management tool. This would mean that low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities would no longer be guaranteed access to a basic diet regardless of where they live. Instead, states’ ability to contribute to the cost of SNAP could drive the level of benefits available to poor households in that state. This is a radical departure from SNAP’s basic design, which has been proven to reduce hunger and poverty.
The Administration’s savings estimate of this proposal doesn’t include any estimated impact of states reducing SNAP benefits. Since states would feel pressure to cut benefits at some point, this proposal would likely cut SNAP even further. Moreover, when the next recession hits, SNAP wouldn’t be able to expand automatically as it has in the past, as each additional dollar of SNAP necessary to meet the need of new applicants would require a state contribution at a time when state budgets would be strapped.
SNAP is a highly effective program targeted to households that need its help to meet their basic food needs. With a small average benefit of just $1.40 per person per meal, it lifts millions out of poverty, and it has demonstrated long-term benefits for children that participate, including better health and education outcomes. While its overall enrollment and spending are coming down as the economy improves, it provides vital assistance to over 40 million low-income Americans.