Rates of SNAP Receipt Stabilize or Drop in All Regions for First Time Since Great Recession

July 28, 2015

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Summary

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From the beginning of the Great Recession in 2007 until 2012, receipt of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits grew steadily.1 Participation and funding rose to historic levels2 driven by the changing economy, intensified efforts to enroll eligible populations, and expanded benefits and eligibility via the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Throughout the recovery, SNAP has acted as an economic stimulus and part of a safety net for struggling families. In 2013, SNAP receipt fell slightly—a decline perhaps indicative of a slowly recovering economy. However, substantially more households still reported receiving SNAP benefits in 2013 than before the recession.3

Despite the declines in SNAP receipt in 2013, the program remains an important support for populations at risk for food insecurity and hunger. There is currently substantial disagreement about the future of SNAP funding. The president’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 made no substantial cuts to SNAP funding, and allotted additional funds to improving access to SNAP for seniors. By comparison, the budget resolution adopted by Congress cuts low- and moderate-income entitlements (outside of health care) by an average of one-third by 2025.4 If cuts to income security programs are applied across the board, the plan would cut $350 billion dollars over the next decade, from programs—like SNAP—that serve low income families. Although the proposed cuts are unlikely to be enacted in 2015, cuts will be debated and are likely to be a major component of the Farm Bill reauthorization debate, scheduled for 2018. Further, the impact of an earlier reduction in funding (November 2013) is not yet visible in most data, making it an important time to assess SNAP’s reach.5 This brief uses data from the American Community Survey to document rates of SNAP receipt in 2013, to track changes since the onset of the recession in 2007, and to monitor receipt by region and across rural places, suburbs, and cities. In addition, it examines levels of SNAP receipt among potentially vulnerable populations to determine how receipt has changed among these groups since the recession began.6