NC Budget and Tax Center

Food Stamp expenditures already dropping, with decline expected to fall faster over next five years

Federal spending on the SNAP program—formally known as food stamps—is already declining as a share of the economy, according to a new report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  This is the case even though some critics, who claim that SNAP is growing out of control, are calling for deeper SNAP cuts as part of current congressional negotiations over the Farm Bill. These cuts would come on top of the cuts that took place earlier this month.

North Carolina has the fifth highest food insecurity rate in the nation, and cuts on top of cuts will create an even greater challenge for the 1 in 6 Tar Heel households that struggle with too few resources to meet their family’s nutritional needs.

As expected, there was a steep rise in SNAP spending due to the Great Recession—the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression during the 1930s—and the lagging recovery. However, this spending trend is reversing, with the decline in spending expected to accelerate over the next five years (see chart below). This shouldn’t be a surprise to the folks on Capitol Hill. After all, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and other experts told us to anticipate such a decline, just like what we experienced in the aftermath of previous American recessions.

 

SNAP spending declining_Nov 21, 2013_CBPP image

 

Since 2011, participation in the SNAP program has leveled off and stayed flat. The CBO expects the number of participants to fall by 2 to 5 percent each year over the next decade—from 47.7 million to 34.3 million by 2023—assuming the economy continues to improve. Once the economy has fully recovered from the Great Recession, spending on SNAP is only expected to increase if there is growth in low-income households (which would then qualify for benefits) or if food prices rise.

Take a moment to send a message to your Representative and Senators to urge them to reject plans to make further cuts to SNAP, which would leave families without enough food on the table. Tell them to support the important role of SNAP for supporting struggling families in a jobless recovery.

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