April 20, 2014

Congress Cuts Food Aid, Not More Costly Programs

While Social Security benefits are going up automatically, the government’s nutritional assistance benefits are going down – and have been targeted for even further reductions.

Last Friday a recession-related increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was allowed to expire. Funding for the program – widely known as food stamps -- is estimated to be about $76.3 billion in Fiscal 2014, down from $82.6 billion the previous year. A family of four could see a reduction of up to $36 a month because of this month’s change.

SNAP benefits will now average less than $1.40 per meal, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Nearly 48 million people, including 22 million children, receive assistance through the program.

Further reductions in it are likely, however. Senate Democrats have called for $4 billion more in cuts to the program over the next decade while House Republicans want more than $39 billion cut.

The contrast with Social Security’s 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase for the coming year is instructive.

It illustrates what happens when Congress continues to focus its deficit-reduction efforts on the same parts of the federal budget – often, as with SNAP, a relatively small part -- while the big federal entitlement programs costing hundreds of billions of dollars a year remain on automatic pilot.