Photo: Food Stamp Cuts
Some states are already embracing deep cuts to the food stamp program similar to those passed by House Republicans in Washington, ending the food subsidy for tens of thousands of low-income Americans regardless of what Congress does.
Spurred by the ballooning cost of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the GOP-dominated House voted Thursday 217-210 to cut $39 billion in the food assistance program over 10 years. Among the changes: Ending waivers for states that during the recession allowed as many as 4 million people to collect food stamps who otherwise would not have qualified.
The fate of the congressional legislation is uncertain. The Senate approved much smaller reductions, and the White House threatened to veto any large cuts to food stamps.
But in six states—Delaware, Kansas, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming—similar reductions are already in place, or soon will be. Two more states will join them once their waivers expire, potentially taking away food stamps from tens of thousands of current recipients.
Republicans blame the program’s ever-increasing rolls and cost on lax enrollment criteria rather than real need. Since before the recession, the price tag for food stamps has more than doubled, topping $82.5 billion in fiscal year 2013. Enrollment hit record highs, with 15 percent of Americans now collecting benefits. Many states have more than 20 percent of their population enrolled (see chart).
Costs have continued to spike as well, as Washington pays for the benefits and states administer them. A new Congressional Research Service report released this month showed fiscal year 2012 was the 12th year in a row a new historical high was reached for federal food and nutrition programs, the vast majority of which is food stamps. Since fiscal year 2000, the report said, spending on federal food assistance has more than tripled.
Put in a different context, the U.S. Census Bureau said food stamps lifted 4 million Americans out of poverty last year if the benefits were counted as income.