Our new report has important news for House and Senate negotiators considering SNAP (food stamp) cuts as part of the Farm Bill: recent government data show that SNAP spending, which doubled as a share of the economy (gross domestic product or GDP) in the wake of the Great Recession, fell as a share of GDP in fiscal year 2013, which ended September 30. Moreover, CBPP projects that, in fiscal year 2014, SNAP spending will not only continue to decline as a share of GDP but will fall 5 percent in nominal (non-inflation-adjusted) terms, largely because of the expiration this month of the 2009 Recovery Act’s benefit increase.
And, as the economic recovery continues and fewer low-income people qualify for SNAP, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects SNAP spending to fall further in future years, returning to its 1995 levels by 2019 (see graph). Because SNAP isn’t projected to grow faster than the economy, it isn’t contributing to the nation’s long-term budget imbalance.
SNAP spending primarily reflects the number of participants and their average benefit:
Some critics have called for large cuts in SNAP — like the House-passed bill to cut a couple million people off the program — in part on the grounds that SNAP is growing out of control. But these recent data show that that the spending growth has ended and that SNAP is following the pattern of previous recessions, as CBO and other experts expected.