Photo by Erick Bieger
By Jackie Stein
At the beginning of November, more than 47 million low-income Americans saw their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits reduced. And Congress is currently considering more cuts to the program, better known as food stamps, with bills from both the House and the Senate containing cuts to the program, but differing in amount.
SNAP benefits go to 1 in 7 Americans, most of whom live in households with children, seniors, or people with disabilities, including 900,000 veterans. The rolls have swelled in recent years as the economy has struggled. Consequently, the program has more than doubled in cost since 2008, totaling around $80 billion a year. This has made it a prime target for legislators seeking to trim the federal budget. However the Congressional Budget Office projects federal spending on food stamps to fall over the next five years without any new legislation, due to a strengthening economy.
In fact, some economists argue, SNAP benefits actually strengthen the economy, and thus cutting them would hurt not only recipients, but the economy as a whole. This is because people who are living paycheck to paycheck put benefits they get right back into the economy when they use the benefits to buy groceries. Those dollars pay the salaries of the grocery clerks, the truckers who haul the food and produce cross-country, and finally goes to the farmer who grows the crops. Moody’s Analytics estimates that every dollar of SNAP spending generates roughly $1.70 in local economic activity.
As part of our Faces of the Budget project, we talked with people around the country about their experiences with federal programs like food stamps. Here’s what they said:
Jackie Stein is a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Massachusetts and an intern at National Priorities Project.