Still more winning as the latest data from the United States Department of Agriculture or the USDA has been released showing the number of people enrolled in food stamps has dropped by some 2 million people since President Donald Trump took office. President Trump has also previously mentioned his intentions to make it a priority to keep SNAP program costs down for taxpayers at both the state and federal levels. This may drive enrollment down even further in 2018.
The USDA revealed data that shows the number of people enrolled in what is known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP program plunged to 42,182,443 in fiscal year (FY) 2017 —a drop of 2,036,920 from the 44,219,363 enrolled in FY 2016. SNAP is the government program that administers food stamps. Participation in the program has reached the lowest levels achieved since 2010. There were 40,302,000 people enrolled in the program during the 2010 FY.
Food stamp enrollment has been seeing a steady decline after 2013 when participation peaked at a whopping 47.6 million under the Obama administration. This holds the record as the highest amount the program has ever had enrolled since the creation of the food stamp program in 1964 under President Lyndon B. Johnson. Taxpayers were forced to foot the bill to the tune of $79.8 million for SNAP when enrollment surged in 2013.
The average individual SNAP participant receives $125.00 monthly, costing taxpayers $58 billion in 2017. Historical data show that while the program has expanded greatly over time, participation has declined as of late. The recent decline represents a historical break from the constant participation increases that characterized the program since the USDA began tracking the numbers in 1969 – average participation that year was 2,878,000, meaning participation has increased 14 fold since. When the USDA began recording how much taxpayers spent on the food stamp program in 1969, taxpayers spent $250 million to subsidize the 2.8 million receiving benefits.
In 2013, enrollment in SNAP began to decline as many states passed laws seeking to eliminate fraud and waste by requiring recipients to work, volunteer, be enrolled in a school or vocational program, or take part in some level of job training for a set number of hours per week in order to receive food stamp benefits. The steady improvement of the US economy also contributed to a significant decline in overall food stamp usage.
Here is the breakdown of how many people dropped off the food stamp rolls each month of 2017:
- January to February – 408,956
- February to March – 95,152
- March to April – 521,295
- April to May- 176,527
- May to June – 178,648
- June to July – 236,417
Trump’s 2018 budget proposed cuts to SNAP and suggested that states match up to 20 percent of federal money allotted for the food stamp program with the USDA also announcing plans to give states more autonomy over how SNAP is administered as a cost-cutting measure for the welfare program costing American taxpayers multiple billions of dollars. Policies are also being presented at the state level for limiting the number of family members that can make purchases using a SNAP card, along with time limits on how long food stamp recipients can receive benefits, and mandatory drug testing for recipients of the program. There is also talk of implementing these policies on a national level as well.
Brandon Lipp is the acting undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services and he states of the decline in SNAP participation –
“The goal of the SNAP program is to support families in need as they strive to attain self-sufficiency. SNAP was established as a temporary supplemental nutrition benefit guiding people to self-sufficiency and self-reliance, not a permanent way of life. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that SNAP participation will drop by about 1.3 million people each year over the next 10 years as the economy continues to strengthen.
“Working together with our state partners, USDA is committed to finding innovative, cost-effective ways to help SNAP recipients find and keep gainful employment in order to build a stronger future for their families. We must ensure that we serve SNAP participants well.”
While the SNAP program requires that state employees certify households for benefits, the agency issued new guidance in December of last year that would allow private-sector employees to provide information.
“The new policy maximizes flexibility within the law related to the SNAP certification process while holding states accountable for ensuring eligible people have access to food benefits as they move toward self-sufficiency,” the agency states.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said this helps the program with streamlined access and efficiency.
“This flexibility is a positive step toward enhancing customer service and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Perdue said. “I encourage all states with an interest in this new flexibility to consider this change in policy, especially states looking for better ways to align their operations across multiple programs.”