Food assistance for vulnerable communities would be slashed deeply under budget resolutions that the US House and Senate budget committees approved last week. The cuts would likely increase hunger, thrust more people into poverty, and push families that are poor even deeper into poverty. Considering that North Carolina has the 5th highest level of food insecurity in the nation, the proposals would deliver a huge blow to North Carolinians living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to provide food to their families.
Under the House plan, the SNAP program—formerly known as food stamps—would be block-granted and cut by at least $125 billion, or one-third, between 2021 and 2025, according to experts at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). There is some flexibility in terms of how states would be able to carry out the deep funding cuts. If states decided to rely solely on benefits cuts, the average SNAP recipient would face a $55 per month cut in food assistance. For a family of 4 that cut is about $200 a month—or worth about one-quarter of a very low-cost meal plan. States could also turn to eligibility cuts and reduce income limits to achieve the cuts. Either way, cuts of this magnitude will bring harm to families, children, and other vulnerable groups.
North Carolina would lose at least $3.8 billion in food aid over those five years. That would force North Carolina policymakers to make some very difficult decisions about whose food assistance to reduce or terminate, impacting many Tar Heel families who already find it difficult to pay the bills and meet their most basic needs.
Other key takeaways from the CBPP report include:
- The cuts would come on top of SNAP cuts implemented in November 2013 that reduced the average monthly benefit for a North Carolina family of 4 by $36. The proposed cuts would also come on top of the upcoming 2016 cuts to 1 million unemployed adults aged 18-50 who aren’t raising children or have a disability but live in extreme poverty. No matter how hard these folks are looking for work in an economy where there aren’t enough jobs for everyone who needs employment, they would lose their benefits after three months of unemployment.
- SNAP caseloads and spending as a part of the economy are already falling as the economy slowly recovers, and are projected to fall even further as the recovery strengthens. SNAP is very responsive to the economy—caseloads go up during times of greater need and go down during good times. Yet, block granting the program would not allow to program to correspond as well or automatically during times of great need.
- SNAP reduces poverty, improves health over the long-term, and reduces food insecurity. Approximately 7 in 10 SNAP households are families with children, seniors, or people with disabilities. As such, SNAP cuts would affect a broad group of people who earn low-incomes. And, 2 in 5 of SNAP households are below half of the poverty line (less than $12,000 for a family of 4).
The Senate plan does not explicitly call for block-granting SNAP and it is vague on what the total amount of cuts to the SNAP program would be. Yet, experts believe that the plan’s intent to cut $500 billion to mandatory programs serving people who are low-income—including SNAP—indicates that food aid would likely be cut deeply.
Beyond food assistance, both budget resolutions cut more than $3 trillion over ten years to programs that reduce poverty, boost economic mobility, and serve low- and moderate income people. That means every 7 in 10 dollars of cuts to non-defense spending is directed at programs that benefit people at the bottom of the income scale. Scaling back work and income supports will make it harder for people doing their best to put food on the table and support their children and do nothing to build a stronger economy for all.