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Ryan Budget Takes Big Bite out of Food Stamps

Millions of people would lose part or all of their SNAP (food stamp) benefits under House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s new budget, a new CBPP analysis shows.

The Ryan plan would cut SNAP — the nation’s most important anti-hunger program — by $133.5 billion or more than 17 percent over the next ten years.  (Click here for the state-by-state impact.)  Since more than 90 percent of SNAP expenditures are for food assistance, a cut of that size would require scaling back SNAP eligibility and/or reducing benefits.

To illustrate the size of the cut:

  • If the cuts came solely from new eligibility restrictions, more than 8 million people would need to be cut from the program, if the cuts began taking effect in 2013.
  • If the cuts came solely from across-the-board benefit cuts, SNAP benefits would have to be cut by about $22 to $27 per person per month in 2016 dollars.

Contrary to Chairman Ryan’s claim that large SNAP cuts are necessary to rein in the program, the recent rise in SNAP expenditures is temporary and mostly reflects the depth of the recent recession.

  • As the first graph shows, the growth in SNAP participation peaked in the fall of 2009 and has slowed to a path that suggests the caseload may start to decline in the near future.
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  • As the second graph shows, the Congressional Budget Office projects SNAP to return essentially to pre-recession levels as a share of the Gross Domestic Product once the economy fully recovers.  Thus, SNAP isn’t contributing to the nation’s long-term budget problem because it is projected to grow no faster than the economy over time.