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Ryan Budget Would Slash SNAP

Millions of people would lose part or all of their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) benefits under the new budget from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, according information that the committee staff provided during yesterday’s mark up.

The Ryan budget, like those he proposed in 2011 and 2012, would slash funding for programs for the needy and disadvantaged.  Although the plan lacks many details, it appears that it would cut SNAP — the nation’s most important anti-hunger program — by $135 billion or almost 18 percent over the next ten years.  Since more than 90 percent of SNAP expenditures go to food assistance, a cut of that size would require restricting SNAP eligibility for needy people, slashing benefits, or both.

To illustrate the size of the cut:

  • If the cuts came solely from restricting eligibility, 8 to 9 million people would need to be cut from the program.
  • If the cuts came solely from across-the-board benefit cuts, SNAP benefits would have to be cut by $24 per person per month in 2016 dollars.

Chairman Ryan’s budget document focuses on SNAP’s growth since 2001, potentially leaving some with the impression that its growth is a long-term problem and must be curbed.  As we have explained, the recent growth in SNAP expenditures is temporary and already has slowed.

Moreover, SNAP isn’t contributing to the nation’s long-term budget problem.  The Congressional Budget Office projects that SNAP spending will fall to 1995 levels as a share of Gross Domestic Product by 2019.