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Friday, November 8, 2013

Background on the Scheduled Reduction to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Benefits

Randy Alison Aussenberg
Analyst in Nutrition Assistance Policy

Gene Falk
Specialist in Social Policy

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; P.L. 111-5) included an acrossthe- board increase in benefits provided under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp program), effective in April 2009. ARRA substantially raised maximum monthly benefits, by 13.6% in FY2009. For a one-person household, the added benefit was $24 a month; for two persons, $44 a month; for three persons (the most typical household), $63 a month; for four persons, $80 a month; and for larger households, higher amounts. As a result, average household SNAP benefits (typically less than the maximum) were boosted by more than 15%. (Note: A household’s SNAP benefit is calculated by subtracting the household specific countable (or “net”) income from the maximum benefit; percentage increases varied on a case-by-case basis.)

Originally, the ARRA increase was to be effective until regular SNAP cost-of-living adjustments “caught up” with the 13.6% increase (as compared to FY2009) to the maximum benefit, but Congress amended the law so that the increase is now scheduled to sunset after October 31, 2013. (Under “regular” SNAP law, maximum SNAP benefits are adjusted annually for changes in food prices on October 1.) To help meet congressional pay-as-you-go rules, the 111
th Congress made two changes to this effective date, which resulted in savings to offset other new spending. First, P.L. 111-226 (a law providing funding for Medicaid and education jobs) added a March 31, 2014, sunset date to the ARRA benefit increase. Second, in the child nutrition reauthorization legislation (the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010; P.L. 111-296), the sunset date was moved to October 31, 2013.

The sunset date in current law means that maximum SNAP benefits will decrease by about 5.5% on November 1, 2013. For a one-person household, the benefits will decrease by $11 a month; for two persons, $20 a month; for three persons, $29 a month; for four persons, $36 a month; and for larger households, higher amounts.

President Obama’s FY2014 budget proposed to delay the sunset of the ARRA benefit increase to March 31, 2014. This is the date the benefit increase was to sunset before the enactment of the child nutrition legislation (P.L. 111-296). The Administration estimates that this extension of the increase for five months would cost approximately $2.26 billion. Neither the House (H.R. 2642) nor the Senate (S. 954) 2013 farm bill proposals would delay the sunset date.

Date of Report: October 23, 2013
Number of Pages: 9
Order Number: R43257
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