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SNAP Spending Falling, as Expected

SNAP (formerly food stamps) spending has begun to decline as a share of the economy, as the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and other experts expected, our newly updated report shows.

  • SNAP spending fell as a share of the economy in 2014, after stabilizing in 2012 and 2013. Spending fell by just over a tenth in 2014 as a share of gross domestic product or GDP (see graph).  SNAP spending also fell in 2014 by nearly a tenth after adjusting for inflation.
  • SNAP is not part of the long-term budget problem. As the economic recovery continues and fewer low-income people qualify for SNAP, CBO expects SNAP spending to fall further in future years, returning to its 1995 level as a share of GDP by 2020. Thus, while CBO recently projected that the overall gap between federal spending and revenues will grow starting in 2018, SNAP is not contributing to this problem; CBO also forecasts that SNAP will decline as a share of the economy over the next ten years.
  • The expiration of the 2009 Recovery Act’s benefit increase contributed to the spending drop in 2014. The expiration, on November 1, 2013, lowered average benefits by about 7 percent (about $450 million a month) in the rest of fiscal year 2014.
  • The number of SNAP participants has started to fall. SNAP caseloads grew significantly between 2007 and 2011 as the recession and lagging economic recovery led more low-income households to qualify and apply for help.  SNAP caseload growth slowed substantially in 2012 and 2013, however, and caseloads fell by about 2 percent in fiscal year 2014.

For more trends and information on SNAP, check out our chart book.