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Implementing New Changes to the Food Stamp Program: A Provision By Provision Analysis of The 2008 Farm Bill

The 2008 Farm Bill makes numerous improvements to the Food Stamp Program that will help low-income Americans put food on the table in the face of rising food and fuel prices.[1]  Over the 2009-2017 period, the Farm Bill will add $7.8 billion in new resources for the program, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  The major food stamp provisions will:

  • End years of erosion in the purchasing power of food stamps by raising and indexing for inflation the program’s standard deduction and minimum benefit.  These changes will help about 11 million low-income people, including families with children, seniors, and people with disabilities.  With these changes, food stamp rules will fully account for annual inflation for the first time since the program’s creation over 40 years ago, and food stamp households will stop losing food purchasing power each year.
  • Support working-poor families by eliminating the cap on the dependent care deduction, reducing the chances that families will have to forgo food to pay for decent and safe child care.
  • Promote saving byimproving the program’s resource limits and excluding tax-preferred retirement accounts and education accounts from those limits.
  • Simplify food stamp administration for participants and states by building on successful initiatives from the last (2002) Farm Bill.
  • Rename and update the program, which will be called the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” (SNAP); food stamp coupons will be eliminated.
  • Strengthen program operations, integrity, and oversight and modernize benefit delivery, for example by creating a state option for telephonic applications and by improving oversight of state modernization efforts.

These changes, which represent the largest increase in the Food Stamp Program in 15 years, will make a critical difference in the well-being of millions of low-income Americans.[2]  The Food Stamp Program is the nation’s most important food assistance program.  It is the only social program that creates a national benefit floor under nearly all categories of poor households — low-income children and their families as well as low income elderly, disabled, and unemployed individuals.  In 2007 the Food Stamp Program provided more than $30 billion in benefits to a monthly average of 26.5 million people.

New Name for Food Stamp Program

Effective October 1, 2008, the Farm Bill renames the Food Stamp Program the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and renames the Food Stamp Act of 1977 the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008.  This paper continues to call the program the Food Stamp Program and the program’s benefits food stamps.

End Notes

[1] The 2008 Farm Bill (The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, P.L. 110-246) was enacted over the President’s veto on June 18, 2008.  In total the nutrition title includes more than $10 billion over ten years in increases for domestic nutrition programs.  In addition to the food stamp improvements, the bill’s major provisions include $1.26 billion over ten years for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and $1 billion for the free fresh fruit and vegetable snack program, which is targeted to schools with high shares of low-income families.

[2] Appendix A presents estimates of the number of people affected and the size of the benefit increases in each state for most of the major provisions, based on CBO cost estimates and CBPP analysis.