Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Millions of people would lose part or all of their SNAP benefits under Paul Ryan’s latest budget proposal. The Ryan budget, like those he proposed in 2011 and 2012, would slash funding for programs for the needy and disadvantaged.  Ryan proposes cutting SNAP by $135 billion almost 18%, over the next 10 years and converting it into a block grant beginning in 2019.  But recently released details indicate that his plan is exceptionally draconian. The block grant conversion accounts for $125 billion of the total cuts —as a result, all of those cuts would occur over just five years. This would require extraordinary changes:
      If the cuts came solely from restricting eligibility, 12 to 13 million people would need to be cut from the program.
      If the cuts came solely from across-the-board benefit cuts, benefits would have to be cut by more than $50 per person per month in 2019 (for a family of three, that’s $1,800 over the whole year).  Put another way, the maximum SNAP benefit would be set at just 73% of the Thrifty Food Plan, USDA’S estimate of the minimum amount a family needs to afford a bare-bones, nutritionally adequate diet.

Chairman Ryan’s budget document focuses on SNAP’s growth since 2001, which could give some people the impression that its growth is a long-term problem and must be curbed.   But, in fact, 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.

In contrast to Ryan’s, the budget proposed by Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray takes a different approach to safety net programs and does not call for fundamental changes. Her budget acknowledges the effectiveness of SNAP in responding to the needs of millions of people during the recession. Part of SNAP’s effectiveness is that it responds to changes in the economy. This also means that it decreases and fewer people will depend on it as the economy recovers - a trend expected over the next 10 years.

Sources: Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/19/13, SNAP Cuts; Center for Law and Social Policy, 3/20/13, Murray Budget

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