SNAP on the Chopping Block

SNAPWhat feeds millions in America and is reauthorized twice in a decade? Every five years, the Farm Bill has to be reauthorized and was last done in 2013. The Agriculture and Nutrition Act HR2 would increase the net direct spending by $3.2Billion 2018-2023. Under this legislation, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—commonly known as Food Stamps—would be cut by $17 billion over the next 10 years.  According to the Public Health Institute (PHI), “The bill, if passed, would undermine the health, well-being and food security of millions of Americans…. Proposed program changes would cause more than 1 million low-income households, comprised of about 2 million people, to lose their benefits altogether or have them reduced. Many of those targeted to lose benefits are low-income, working families with children.”

Food for thought: The richest 1% of our country received multi-million dollar tax cuts while the average SNAP benefit per person was about $1.40 per person per meal.

TAKE ACTION: Contact your legislator and sign this petition!

The majority of those receiving this essential help work.  Some critics of SNAP incorrectly portray SNAP Working Disabledthose on food stamps as those who refuse to work and we must refuse to accept that erroneous stereotype.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2013),The overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients who can work do so.  Among SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult, more than half work while receiving SNAP — and more than 80% work in the year prior to or the year after receiving SNAP.  The rates are even higher for families with children — more than 60% work while receiving SNAP, and almost 90% work in the prior or subsequent year. 

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities gives us a quick guide to SNAP Eligibility and Benefits:

Benefits are tied to the cost of the Department of Agriculture’s Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), a diet plan intended to provide adequate nutrition at a minimal cost. Due to the effect of lower food prices on the TFP in recent years, the maximum benefit is lower (by about $2 to $3 per person per month) in 2018.[8]  Not all households receive the maximum benefit, and other parts of the benefit calculation (including deductions discussed below) will rise next year to reflect inflation in other parts of the economy, so not all SNAP households will experience the same benefit reduction. 

SNAP Benefits by Household Size
Household Size Maximum Monthly Benefit,
Fiscal Year 2018
Estimated Average Monthly Benefit, Fiscal Year 2018
1 $192 $134
2 $352 $252
3 $504 $376
4 $640 $456
5 $760 $521
6 $913 $618
7 $1,009 $672
8 $1,153 $852
Each additional person $144

TAKE ACTION: Contact your legislator and sign this petition!


Table 1 above, shows the maximum SNAP benefit levels in fiscal year 2018 for households of different sizes.  Take as an example a family of three:  if that family had no income, it would receive the maximum benefit of $504 per month; if it had $600 in net monthly income, it would receive the maximum benefit ($504) minus 30% of its net income (30% of $600 is $180), or $324.  On average, SNAP households received about $254 a month in fiscal year 2017.  The average SNAP benefit per person was about $126 per month, which works out to about $1.40 per person per meal.

Deductions play an important role in determining SNAP benefits.  They reflect the fact that not all of a household’s income is available for purchasing food; some must be used to meet other needs.  In determining available (or net) income, the program allows the following deductions from a household’s gross monthly income:

  • a standard deduction to account for basic unavoidable costs;[9]
  • an earnings deduction equal to 20 percent of earnings (this accounts for work-related expenses and payroll taxes, while also acting as a work incentive);
  • a dependent care deduction for the out-of-pocket child care or other dependent care expenses that are necessary for a household member to work or participate in education or training…..

All SNAP households can receive the standard deduction.  Over two-thirds (68%) of SNAP households claim the shelter deduction, while 32% of households (and more than half of households with children) claim the earnings deduction.  By contrast, the dependent care, child support, and medical expense deductions are claimed by small shares of all SNAP households (4%, 2%, and 5%, respectively).

Note, individuals who are on strike, all unauthorized immigrants, and certain lawfully present immigrants are not eligible to receive SNAP.

[1] A “household” for SNAP consists of individuals who live together in the same residence and who purchase and prepare food together.
[2] This paper presents the rules for 48 states and the District of Columbia that are in effect for federal fiscal year 2018, which began in October 2017.  Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the Virgin Islands participate in SNAP but are subject to somewhat different eligibility, benefit, and deduction levels.  Puerto Rico does not participate in the regular program but instead receives a block grant for nutrition assistance.  Many program rules are adjusted annually for inflation; for previous fiscal years’ levels.
[3] Households with elderly or disabled members and households that are “categorically eligible” for SNAP because they receive public assistance — such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) — are not subject to the gross income test.
[4] The income and asset limits do not apply to households that are categorically eligible for SNAP.  See a list of states that have lifted the income and/or asset tests for most of the caseload by expanding categorical eligibility.
[5] Federal SNAP rules count the market value of most vehicles above a dollar threshold (currently $4,650) toward the asset limit, but states have significant flexibility to apply less restrictive vehicle asset rules and every state has adopted this flexibility.
[6] In general, lawfully present immigrant children, refugees, and asylees, and qualified legal immigrant adults who have been in the United States for at least five years, are eligible for SNAP.  In some cases the income and resources of the immigrant’s sponsor count toward the immigrant’s eligibility.
[7] Eligible households with one or two members qualify for at least a “minimum benefit,” which is $15 in fiscal year 2018.
[8] Maximum benefits will go up in Hawaii and will fall by larger amounts in Alaska, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.
[9] The standard deduction varies by household size.  In 2018 it is $160 for households of one to three members and $170, $199, and $228 for households with four, five, and six or more members, respectively.

As the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) explains, the amount of benefits the household gets is called an allotment. The net monthly income of the household is multiplied by .3, and the result is subtracted from the maximum allotment for the household size to find the household’s allotment. This is because SNAP households are expected to spend about 30 percent of their income on food. Compare the above to the allotments five years ago when the last Farm Bill was reauthorized.

(October 2012 through September 2013)
People in Household
Maximum Monthly Allotment
$    200
$    367
$    526
$    668
$    793
$    952
$ 1,052
$ 1,202
Each additional person
$    150
 The USDA offers a grant for Improvements with the SNAP Process and Technology.  Another webinar for this opportunity is scheduled for May 17, 2018 to cover the programmatic information necessary to submit a grant application as detailed in the Request for Applications (RFA) including funding priority areas, review criteria, grant award information, the application submission process, and deadline.

About Bren Martin

Brenda is an education advocate and has been an active leader in the schools, church and community. She is a National PTA Social Media Ambassador and was a Panelist on NBC's Education Nation in New York City, "Stepping Up: The Power of a Parent Advocate," for Parenting Magazine. Brenda was honored by the U. S. Department of Education and the White House as a “Champion of Change” for educational advocacy. She is Parenting Magazine’s Mom Congress-Kentucky delegate and a recipient of Knowledge Universe-KinderCare’s Education Achievement Award! (See Parenting Magazine’s, “The Power and Potential of Parent Advocates,“ and one of Brenda’s articles, “Changing Us, Changes Them.“) Some of her services include: District PTA President and State PTA Board; Education Commissioner's Steering Committee for Teacher Effectiveness. She is a former regional President, Gifted Education; Summer Camp Creator/Director; Church Youth Director; Vacation Bible School Director; Prichard Committee’s Commonwealth of Institute for Parent Leadership (CIPL) Fellow; School Based Decision Making; Employability Skills Consultant to prison & colleges; Television Special host and more. Also, Follow Brenda on Twitter @bdrumartin. Disclaimer: Use sites, blogs, information or links at your own risk.
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