Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Potential SNAP Cuts Would Hit Close to Home for Many Wisconsinites

Low-income Wisconsinites could bear the brunt of a variety of actions by House Republicans aimed at cutting SNAP benefits.

Reductions in SNAP benefits – formerly known as food stamps – would jeopardize the economic security of many people in Wisconsin who depend on SNAP to make ends meet. More than a million people in Wisconsin received SNAP benefits at some point during 2012, including 452,000 children. That means SNAP helped provide nutritional assistance to nearly one out of five people in Wisconsin in 2012, and one out of three children in the state.

A substantial portion of the people who receive SNAP benefits in Wisconsin are children. In 2012, 42% of the people who received SNAP benefits in Wisconsin were children. You can access information about SNAP caseloads in Wisconsin here.

The hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who rely on SNAP could see their nutritional assistance reduced if House Republicans have their way. SNAP has been in the crosshairs of House Republicans, who recently passed a farm bill that does not include the SNAP program. Bob Greenstein at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explains why a stand-alone farm bill without SNAP is bad news for low-income people:

“The reason is clear. Even though the farm bill the House defeated a few weeks ago contained more than $20 billion in SNAP cuts (nearly all of them in food assistance benefits) as well as an unprecedented measure allowing states to cut families off SNAP if a parent wants to work but can’t find a job and letting state politicians take half of the resulting savings and use them for any purpose, that wasn’t enough for many of the most conservative House Republicans. So the House leadership has dropped the SNAP provisions and plans to come back later with a still harsher SNAP bill designed to pass solely with Republican votes.”

At the state level, legislators have also been intent on rolling back nutritional assistance for low-income people. The 2013-15 state budget passed last month includes a new work requirement that would cost the state $14 million a year in GPR to administer starting in 2015, an amount likely to rise as the requirements are fully phased in over time. The new work requirement is projected to cause 31,000 able-bodied adults without dependents to drop out of the SNAP program. The state will not realize any cost savings in the projected drop in caseload, as the benefits are federally funded.

Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites have the potential to be negatively impacted by efforts at the state and national levels to reduce SNAP benefits. Many of those people are children. If policymakers want to reduce the costs of the SNAP program, the best way would be to focus on helping the economy create jobs with family-supporting wages, rather than cutting assistance for low-income people.

Tamarine Cornelius

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