July | August 2017







Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Proposes Changes to SNAP

By Jeff Stockdale, director of legislative affairs, CSG Washington, D.C., Office
On May 23, 2017, President Donald Trump released his first full budget proposal, titled A New Foundation for American Greatness. The proposal outlines deep cuts to many domestic programs, including $191 billion in reduced federal spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, over the next decade.
SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is designed to increase the food purchasing power of eligible low-income households. It is the federal government’s largest domestic food assistance program, serving more than 40 million low-income beneficiaries, two-thirds of whom are elderly, disabled, or children under 18. Benefits averaged $127 per person per month for fiscal year 2015.  SNAP benefits are 100 percent federally funded, but states share 50 percent of the administrative costs with the federal government. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Virgin Islands participate in the program.
A majority of the proposed savings would come from making states match a portion of the cost of benefits issued to participants. Historically, the food stamp benefits have been 100 percent federally funded. According to a document released by the Office of Management and Budget, the match would be phased in gradually, beginning with a national average of 10 percent in 2020 and increasing to an average rate of 25 percent by 2023.  Other changes proposed by the Trump administration include cutting back eligibility and imposing additional work requirements.
At a May 22 budget briefing, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney characterized the SNAP proposal as a way of giving states flexibility to improve the administration of the program. While recalling his days as a former state legislator in South Carolina, he said, “What we do is go to the states and say, ‘We want you to have a little bit of skin in the game and help us, because you know how to make the programs better, to improve the programs and save money.’”
Not all lawmakers share Mulvaney’s view that the efficacy of the program can be improved.
“SNAP works, and it works for those who need it the most. It has been incredibly successful in alleviating hunger, lifting people out of poverty, and supporting our economy,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) while speaking to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at a House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee hearing on the budget proposal. “This is wrongheaded and flies in the face of what apparently is your mission, which is to make sure we do right, and feed everyone. Millions of people will be thrown off the food stamp program because of this heartless budget.”
Hawaii House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Cindy Evans said revisiting SNAP is always worthwhile.
“State legislators will be watching the deliberations over possible changes to SNAP closely,” she said. “We want to ensure that the viability of the program is maintained, as it is vital to cash-strapped applicants who rely on this assistance.”
The president’s SNAP proposal foreshadows a looming fight between Democrats and conservative Republicans, who differ in their views on the food assistance program and the appropriate level of state financial participation in this program.  The debate over SNAP will come to a head as the House and Senate consider the 2018 farm bill, which provides the authorization for funding U.S. Department of Agriculture programs, including SNAP. The current farm bill expires on Sept. 30, 2018.