The Washington Post’s in-depth story on how SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) helps the residents and economy of Woonsocket, Rhode Island highlights many of the same points as our extensive SNAP chart book. Three facts in particular stand out.
Work rates among SNAP households that can work are high. SNAP has become increasingly effective in supporting work among households that can work, like the example of Rebecka and Jourie Ortiz in the Post story. Among SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult, more than half work while receiving SNAP, and more than 80 percent work in the year before or after receiving SNAP. Work rates are even higher for families with children: more than 60 percent work while receiving SNAP, and almost 90 percent work in the year before or after receiving it (see chart).
SNAP enables households to buy nutritious foods. The purchasing patterns of SNAP households mirror those of other low- and moderate-income households. SNAP recipients spend over 85 percent of benefits on fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy, meat, and meat alternatives.
SNAP provides an economic boost to the community. Retailers in Woonsocket, and in town and cities throughout the nation, rely on the food purchases that households make with their SNAP benefits. In fact, SNAP provides one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus during an economic downturn. Economists estimate that in a weak economy, for every dollar that households redeem under SNAP, the gross domestic product grows by about $1.70. The Congressional Budget Office rated an increase in SNAP benefits as one of the two most cost-effective of all spending and tax options it examined for boosting growth and jobs in a weak economy.
Policymakers should keep these facts in mind when considering the impact of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposal to cut SNAP by nearly a fifth over the next decade.