The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, provides cash benefits that can be used to purchase food for individuals earning up to 130 percent of the federal poverty level. In the fiscal year 2019 Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget, The People’s Budget, Democrats proposed to increase the maximum benefit, which is currently $192 per month for an individual and $642 monthly for a family of four, in addition to reducing work requirements under the program.
Expanded SNAP Benefits Would Bust the Federal Budget
In 2002, 19 million – or one in 15 – Americans received SNAP benefits. Today, that figure has more than doubled to 40 million – or one in eight – Americans. Since 2008, spending on the SNAP program has grown from $39 billion to $69 billion and, over the next 10 years, it is already projected to cost the Federal Government $664 billion. The growth in SNAP program spending is illustrative of a larger fiscal problem — the drastic growth in mandatory means-tested federal programs, which cost taxpayers an estimated $742 billion in 2018 alone and will consume $9.4 trillion of federal spending over the next decade.  The price tag for The People’s Budget proposal would greatly add to the cost of the SNAP program, one of the largest means-tested programs; one estimate pinpoints an additional cost to the Federal Government of about $53 billion over ten years. These spending increases would result in additional net interest costs exceeding $9 billion over the same period.
Expanded SNAP Benefits Are Unworkable
Expanding the SNAP program and weakening work requirements increases dependency on the welfare system rather than lifting people out of poverty. The chief failure of the SNAP program is that it does not do enough to incentivize work or help the disadvantaged climb the economic ladder. The Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget will exacerbate these problems by increasing SNAP benefits and eliminating the work requirement for able-bodied adults without dependents. Of the subset of the SNAP benefit population that consists of able-bodied adults who are not taking care of young children, there are 9.5 million current beneficiaries that are not engaged in work activities under the current program. This proposal would further encourage and grow dependency.
Republican Solutions for Reducing Poverty
The goal of anti-poverty programs should be to encourage work and lift Americans out of poverty. The House-passed Farm Bill would achieve this goal and reform the SNAP program by strengthening work activity requirements for able-bodied adults without children under six years of age. Participation in the SNAP Employment and Training Program would fulfill the work requirement, and the House-passed Farm Bill would guarantee everyone access to this training program. Rather than encouraging dependence on the welfare system, Congress should work to ensure more sustainable, self-sufficient outcomes for SNAP recipients by pairing reformed work requirements with consistent enforcement.