|A woman holds a bag of pears as she waits in line to receive free food at the Richmond Emergency Food Bank this month in Richmond, California. An estimated 47 million Americans saw their food stamp benefits cut starting Nov. 1 as temporary relief to the federal program ended.|
SNAP cut hurts the economy as well as the poor
By GERALD BRITT
Nonprofits and other groups working to assist the poor cried foul this month at news that $5 billion would be cut from the food stamp program in 2014. Critics of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) countered that this reduces dependency on a government entitlement program that our country can’t afford. Meanwhile, with the holidays upon us, attention will focus on compassion and charities’ attempts to feed the hungry, a challenge made even greater by the cut.
However, the poor may not be the only ones suffering because of Congress’ SNAP action. It’s a cut that we could all feel eventually.
The Daily Kos political blog looked at how much the SNAP reduction would cost Delaware. Go to dailykos.com to see how the calculations were done, but the bottom line is this: Grocery stores across the state will receive $1 million less in sales each month.
How will the $5 billion cut affect Dallas? Using the Daily Kos formula, I looked at the 30th Congressional District, where 23 percent of residents live below the poverty line. That percentage pretty accurately reflects the total percentage of people living below the poverty line in Texas as a whole.
Based on my calculations, about 40,000 households in the 30th District will buy $1.1 million less in groceries per month. And remember that this is just a piece of the overall picture. More than 400,000 people are on SNAP in Dallas County; almost 4 million Texans receive the benefit.
Even if families and individuals compensate for the SNAP cuts by budgeting their dollars differently or if the impact is not as severe as portrayed, it’s clear that millions of dollars are being siphoned out of the economy at the expense of poor Americans.
Across the country, 47 million Americans receive federal food assistance. For every $1 spent on SNAP, there is an economic benefit of $1.80.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4 million citizens were kept out of poverty because of SNAP. The center also projects that just as the program effectively responded to the recession through the aid it provided low-income Americans, it will shrink on its own in the next couple of years as the economy improves.
SNAP spending in the first quarter of calendar year 2013 was only 0.3 percent higher than for the same period in 2012. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities also states, “Unlike health care programs and Social Security, there are no significant demographic or programmatic pressures that will cause SNAP costs to grow faster than the economy.”
The Heritage Foundation notes that the $5 billion wasn’t really a “cut.” It’s the discontinuation of a temporary expansion of a benefit. But conservatives can’t have it both ways. They claimed that ending the temporary cut in the Social Security payroll tax amounted to a tax “hike.” If the restoration of the payroll tax was a hike, then SNAP benefits have been cut.
But semantics don’t really matter here. Congress did far more than take food out of citizens’ mouths; lawmakers yanked $5 billion out of the U.S. economy.
The Rev. Gerald Britt Jr. is vice president of public policy at CitySquare. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at www.changethewind.org.