FAQs: How Cuts to SNAP Will Affect PA

October 30, 2013

On Nov. 1, food stamps will be cut for 47M Americans. Here's what you need to know.



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Q: Who will be affected by cuts to SNAP (food stamps) taking place on Friday, Nov. 1?
A: All households that participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) will see their SNAP benefits decrease this November. Currently, 47 million Americans participate in SNAP. Nearly half of them are children.

In Pennsylvania, 1 in 7 residents--1.8 million--rely on SNAP to put food on the table. Of those residents, 766,000 are children, and 494,000 are seniors or people with disabilities.

Q: How much will SNAP benefits decrease for these households?
A: Amounts vary by household size. A family of four, for instance, will lose $36 a month in SNAP benefits, equivalent to 21 meals, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That’s $432 a year in food assistance. See the chart below:

Household Size
Monthly Benefits Lost
1 person*-$11
2 people-$20
3 people   -$29
4 people   -$36
5 people   -$43

*Note: Households receiving the minimum benefit of $16 will see a decrease of $1 to $15.

Q: Why are these cuts happening?
A: Through the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, Congress boosted SNAP benefits across the board to help struggling Americans put food on the table and stimulate the economy. In 2010, Congress passed legislation that pushed up the sunset date of that increase to April 2014 and used the estimated savings to fund other priorities, including helping states pay for Medicaid and prevent teacher layoffs. That same year, Congress passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Act, which reauthorized child nutrition programs such as school meals. To offset the cost of that legislation, Congress again moved up the sunset date of the SNAP benefits boost to Oct. 31, 2013, which brings us to where we are today.

Q: Who else will be affected by these cuts?
A: Food banks and charitable organizations across the country are anticipating a surge in demand for food assistance, as households scramble to cope with the decrease. Feeding Pennsylvania, for instance, estimates that the decrease in SNAP benefits in our state is equivalent to 68.8 million meals lost. That’s more than half of the total meals distributed by Feeding America food banks in Pennsylvania annually.

Grocery stores, farmers’ markets and other small businesses that accept SNAP will also be affected by the loss in revenue from food purchases. The SNAP cuts will result in Pennsylvania losing $183 million in federally funded SNAP benefits for the remainder of fiscal year 2014 alone. Nationally, the cut totals about $5 billion in SNAP benefits lost in 2014 and a total of $11 billion over the fiscal year 2014 to 2016 period.

Q: What can the general public do about this issue?
A: Contact your members of Congress and urge them to protect SNAP from further cuts. Right now, House and Senate members are negotiating a final Farm Bill, the legislation that authorizes SNAP as well as other food and agricultural programs.

The Farm Bill conference committee is considering $4 billion to $40 billion in cuts to SNAP over the next decade. Under the most draconian cuts, an estimated 3.8 million Americans would be cut from the program entirely. About 850,000 households across the country—many of them seniors—could lose an average of $90 a month in SNAP benefits. And 210,000 low-income children could lose access to free school meals.

SNAP is our nation’s most effective program in fighting hunger, serving as a lifeline for 47 million Americans, many of whom are still struggling in this economy. To urge your legislator to protect SNAP from further cuts, visit www.hungercoalition.org/farm-bill.

Sources: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Food Research & Action Center, Feeding Pennsylvania, Congressional Budget Office, Coalition Against Hunger