July 9, 2012
The House Agriculture Committee’s mark of the 2012 Farm Bill was released on July 5, 2012. This bill contains $35 billion in cuts over the next ten years, 45 percent of which would come out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program). The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released an analysis of these cuts and who would be affected.
Seventy percent of the SNAP cuts in the House bill come from eliminating the categorical eligibility option used by 40 states in administering SNAP. Categorical eligibility allows families with gross incomes just above the federal income limit or with modest assets, but disposable income below the poverty line, to receive food assistance. According to the analysis, “CBO [Congressional Budget Office] estimates that repealing categorical eligibility would eliminate food assistance to 1.8 million low-income people; the Administration’s estimate is 3 million.”
Under categorical eligibility, 99 percent of SNAP households have disposable income levels that leave them in poverty, meaning that in many cases families may have to choose between childcare, having a vehicle, or food if their SNAP benefits are taken away. Not only would the SNAP cuts hurt families at the grocery checkout line, but CBO estimates that 280,000 low-income children whose eligibility for free school meals is tied to their receipt of SNAP benefits would lose these free meals.
The CBPP analysis contends that these cuts are extraordinary and unnecessary; stating, “Contrary to proponents’ claim that the bill’s SNAP cuts are needed to rein in program growth, CBO has found that SNAP’s expansion in recent years primarily reflected the severe recession and that SNAP spending will fall significantly as the economy recovers. CBO projects that the share of the population that participates in SNAP will fall back to 2008 levels in coming years and that SNAP costs as a share of the economy will fall back to their 1995 level by 2019.”
Read the full analysis to learn more about categorical eligibility and the effect of the House bill’s cuts to SNAP.