Friday, January 04, 2013

Food Stamp Use Falls Slightly...But More Than 47.5 Million Americans Are Still In Program

Funding the nutrition safety net will be hotly debated when Congress takes on the new Farm Bill; FY 2012 sets record for expenditures...
The number of Americans using the Food Stamps program has declined slightly after steadily rising for all but two months since President Obama took office.  Late on Friday afternoon, the Department of Agriculture posted the numbers for October, the latest month for which data is available, and recorded 47,525,329 citizens enrolled in what is officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Enrollment was down by 184,954 beneficiaries, a drop of -.387% from September's enrollment of 47,710,283, the highest number in American history (which USDA has now revised from the original number posted last month, 47,710,032).

Spending for the month of October was $6,343,715,30, down more than $63.3 million from the previous month.

October's drop comes on the heels of the biggest spike in enrollment during President Obama's first term in office, when 607,559 people were added to the rolls between August and September.  This was credited in part to enrollment for disaster aid; the data posted for beneficiaries in October does not include disaster assistance, according to USDA.  Numbers could climb dramatically for the data that will be posted for November, when disaster assistance for Hurricane Sandy will be included (the storm made landfall over the Halloween weekend).

The average benefits in October were $133.48 per person and $276.62 per household.  Texas had the highest number of beneficiaries, at 4,038,440, with California second with 3,964,221, Florida third with 3,353,064 and New York with 3,076,911.

According to the Monthly Treasury Statement that summarizes the receipts and outlays of the federal government, in Fiscal Year 2012, the government logged the highest expenditures in history for SNAP, spending $80,401,000,000 between Oct. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2012.  That's a $2.7 billion increase from the $77,637,000,000 spent in FY 2011.  

Enrollment and total spending for SNAP has increased each year of the President's first term in office, but the trend started before he was sworn in.  According to the Congressional Budget Office, spending on Food Stamps increased by $42 billion between 2007 and 2011, as the number of SNAP participants grew by 70%.

Cuts to the Food Stamp program will be hotly debated in the weeks ahead as Congress battles over a new Farm Bill.  The Farm Bill extension that was included in the fiscal cliff legislation passed on New Year's Day made no cuts to SNAP, with the exception of slashing about one third of the funding for the SNAP-Ed program, a federal-state partnership that supports nutrition education for persons eligible for Food Stamps.  

Both the Senate and House included cuts to the SNAP program in the Farm Bills approved last summer.  The House bill, which contained a larger cut, never made it to a full floor vote.