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SNAP Helps Millions with Disabilities

Some House Republicans are reportedly considering major cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) to help pay for tax cuts, and President Trump’s budget proposes major SNAP cuts. So it’s a good time to remind policymakers of SNAP’s essential role in helping low-income people of all backgrounds, including many with disabilities, put food on the table. Our major new report shows that people who report an impairment or receive disability benefits comprise about one-quarter of SNAP participants.

Disability can have serious economic consequences. Research shows that having a disability can increase medical and other expenses and limit work opportunities for people with disabilities and their family members.

Not surprisingly, then, people with disabilities are likelier to live in poverty, families with children with disabilities are likelier to face hardships such as an inability to pay rent (see chart), and families with members with severe disabilities have rates of food insecurity (inadequate access to sufficient food over the year) close to three times higher than other families. Food insecurity can be especially harmful for people with disabilities, as an insufficient diet can worsen some disabling or chronic conditions.

Many SNAP participants with disabilities receive benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which provide benefits to people with severe and long-lasting disabilities. But many others may have impairments that limit daily activities but aren’t severe enough to qualify them for disability programs or that are more episodic or temporary in nature; still others have applied for SSI or SSDI benefits but haven’t yet been approved. About two-fifths of non-disabled adult SNAP participants with an impairment receive neither SSI nor SSDI, our paper shows. That’s important because these individuals sometimes aren’t considered disabled under SNAP program rules, which generally rely on the receipt of government disability benefits to identify people with disabilities. Consequently, they might not be protected if policymakers cut SNAP eligibility or benefits while exempting individuals with disabilities based on the current SNAP definition.

Policymakers considering changes that could undermine SNAP’s success should recognize the many vulnerable people who would lose access to food. Along with children and their families, seniors, and workers, millions of people with a wide range of disabilities could find it harder to afford food.

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