Congress is currently poised to make even deeper cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), in addition to the cuts made in early November. These cuts arrive a time when North Carolina has the fifth highest level of food insecurity in the nation, according to a new report released this morning by the N.C. Budget and Tax Center. This, in turn, means that many North Carolinians face the prospect of spending the holiday season with little or no food on the table.
As the report details, despite the economic recovery, the number of North Carolinians without a consistent supply of food is on the rise. SNAP, a federally funded program previously known as Food Stamps, helps low-income families afford a healthy diet by providing a very modest monthly benefit. The benefit is set on a sliding scale based on income and household size, the report said, meaning families with the greatest need receive the most benefits.
For many North Carolinians facing food hardship, SNAP provides significant relief and puts food on the table during times of economic hardship. SNAP serves approximately 1.6 million low-income North Carolinians, two-thirds of whom are in families with children.
There was a steep rise in SNAP participation and spending during the economic downturn, the report points out, but the spending trend is beginning to reverse as the economy recovers and fewer people receive benefits. Since 2011, national participation has leveled off and the number of participants is expected to fall 2 to 5 percent each year over the next decade assuming the economy continues to improve.
The end of a temporary boost in SNAP benefits in November 2013 accounts for some of those savings, the report said. The resulting across-the-board benefit cut has impacted every SNAP participant, including an estimated 758,000 children, 285,000 older adults and people with disabilities, and more than 50,000 veterans in North Carolina. For a family of four, the cut is worth $36 per month, a significant setback for individuals who rely on SNAP to meet their basic nutritional needs.
The U.S. House and Senate have passed separate pieces of legislation to cut SNAP further (on top of the November cuts), the report said. The Senate proposal would cut SNAP by $4 billion over the next 10 years. The cut would balloon to $40 billion under the House proposal, resulting in an estimated 3.8 million fewer SNAP participants in 2014 alone.
As the report’s author, analyst Tazra Mitchell noted: “At a time when jobless workers outnumber available jobs by nearly three-to-one in North Carolina, further cuts to SNAP is the wrong approach to fighting hunger and will make life harder for North Carolinians who already face difficult tradeoffs between food and other essential needs. Until public policies are put in place to close the job shortage, raise wages, and spread the economic gains broadly, keeping a robust safety net system is required to alleviate food insecurity and keep poverty in check.”
You can read Mitchell’s full report by clicking here.