More About Dottie Rosenbaum

Dottie Rosenbaum

Rosenbaum is a Senior Policy Analyst focusing primarily on federal and state issues in the Food Stamp Program as well as issues that involve the coordination of food stamps and other state-administered health and income security programs, such as Medicaid, TANF, and child care. In addition, Rosenbaum has expertise on the federal budget and budget process.

Full bio and recent public appearances | Research archive at

Ryan’s SNAP Cuts Would Hit Millions of Low-Income Americans

April 7, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Millions of people would lose part or all of their SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits under the new budget from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, our new report shows.

The Ryan budget cuts SNAP by $137 billion over ten years (2015-2024).  It includes every major benefit cut in the House-passed version of the farm bill from last year that Congress ultimately rejected.  On top of these cuts, which total $12 billion over 2015-2018 and would end food assistance for 3.8 million people, it converts SNAP into a block grant beginning in 2019 and cuts it by another $125 billion — almost 30 percent — over 2019-2024.

Since 90 percent of SNAP spending goes to food assistance, a cut of that size would require restricting SNAP eligibility for needy people, slashing benefits, or both.

  • If the cuts came solely from restricting eligibility, states would have to cut an average of 10 million people from the program (compared to SNAP enrollment without the cuts) each year between 2019 and 2024.
  • If the cuts came solely from across-the-board benefit cuts, states would have to cut SNAP benefits by more than $40 per person per month over 2019-2024 (in nominal dollars), or almost 30 percent, on average.

Chairman Ryan justifies his deep SNAP cuts in part by claiming that the “explosive growth [of SNAP and other low-income programs] is threatening the overall strength of the safety net.”  While SNAP spending grew substantially during the recession, it has begun to decline as a share of the economy and is expected to continue shrinking over the coming decade as the economy continues to recover and fewer people need SNAP.

Chairman Ryan also implies that SNAP doesn’t encourage recipients to work.  Yet the large majority of SNAP recipients who can work do work:  among SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult, more than half work while receiving SNAP and more than 80 percent work in the year prior to or the year after receiving SNAP.  The rates are even higher for families with children:  more than 60 percent work while receiving SNAP, and almost 90 percent work in the prior or subsequent year.

Finally, Chairman Ryan charges that SNAP is rife with waste, fraud, and abuse.  The reality is that SNAP has one of the most rigorous quality control systems of any public benefit program and a very low error rate.  Despite the recent growth in caseloads, the share of total SNAP payments that represent overpayments or payments to ineligible households fell to a record low of 2.77 percent in fiscal year 2012.

It’s important to remember that SNAP serves very vulnerable people.  Eighty-three percent of SNAP households have incomes below the poverty line (about $19,800 for a family of three); 42 percent have incomes below half the poverty line (see chart).  Also, millions of low-wage workers rely on SNAP to feed their families.

SNAP cuts of the size that Chairman Ryan proposes would almost certainly mean more hunger and more poverty.

More Evidence That SNAP Caseloads Have Started Falling

March 10, 2014 at 4:45 pm

A million fewer people received SNAP (formerly food stamps) last December than in December 2012, the Agriculture Department announced Friday — the fourth straight month in which participation fell from the previous year.  This is just the latest sign that SNAP, which critics claim is out of control, has begun to shrink as the economy slowly recovers from the Great Recession.

SNAP caseloads grew in the recession for two main reasons.  More people qualified for the program (due to the weak economy) and a larger share of eligible people applied (due in part to state initiatives to reach more eligible households — particularly working families and senior citizens — by simplifying SNAP policies and procedures).

As our report explains, SNAP caseloads expanded rapidly when the recession hit, but growth slowed in 2011 and 2012 and has begun to decline (see graph).  This flattening of participation follows the pattern of previous recessions.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects that, as the economy improves, the number of participants will fall by 2 to 5 percent each year over the next decade.

SNAP spending, which doubled as a share of the economy (gross domestic product or GDP) in the wake of the Great Recession, has also begun to decline.  SNAP fell slightly as a share of GDP in fiscal years 2012 and 2013.  CBPP projects it will fall further in 2014 — not only as a share of GDP but even in nominal (non-inflation-adjusted) terms — largely because of last November’s expiration of the temporary benefit increase in the 2009 Recovery Act.

SNAP Spending Has Started Falling

November 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Our new report has important news for House and Senate negotiators considering SNAP (food stamp) cuts as part of the Farm Bill:  recent government data show that SNAP spending, which doubled as a share of the economy (gross domestic product or GDP) in the wake of the Great Recession, fell as a share of GDP in fiscal year 2013, which ended September 30.  Moreover, CBPP projects that, in fiscal year 2014, SNAP spending will not only continue to decline as a share of GDP but will fall 5 percent in nominal (non-inflation-adjusted) terms, largely because of the expiration this month of the 2009 Recovery Act’s benefit increase.

And, as the economic recovery continues and fewer low-income people qualify for SNAP, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects SNAP spending to fall further in future years, returning to its 1995 levels by 2019 (see graph).  Because SNAP isn’t projected to grow faster than the economy, it isn’t contributing to the nation’s long-term budget imbalance.

SNAP spending primarily reflects the number of participants and their average benefit:

  • Participation has leveled off. Consistent with patterns from previous recessions, the number of SNAP participants rose substantially between 2007 and 2011.  Caseloads leveled off in 2011 and 2012 and have remained essentially flat for the past year.  This is true across the nation: state data for recent months show small participation declines in about half the states and small increases in the other half.  As the economy improves, CBO expects the number of participants to fall by 2 to 5 percent each year over the next decade:  from 47.7 million in fiscal year 2013 to 47.6 million in 2014, 46.5 million in 2015, and 34.3 million by 2023.
  • Benefits have dropped. The expiration of the Recovery Act benefit increase cut SNAP benefits for all households by 7 percent, on average, or about $5 billion for fiscal year 2014.  In future years, SNAP benefits will simply keep pace with food price inflation.

Some critics have called for large cuts in SNAP — like the House-passed bill to cut a couple million people off the program — in part on the grounds that SNAP is growing out of control.  But these recent data show that that the spending growth has ended and that SNAP is following the pattern of previous recessions, as CBO and other experts expected.

Whom and Where the November 1 SNAP Cuts Will Hit

October 29, 2013 at 11:53 am

The interactive map below shows how many people in each state — including how many children and disabled people in each state — will face a cut in SNAP (food stamp) benefits Friday when the 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary benefit boost ends.  It also lists the total loss in SNAP benefits to households in each state through the end of the fiscal year next September.

These cuts are particularly important given that the House and Senate this week are negotiating further SNAP cuts as part of the Farm Bill.  The House version of the bill would cut SNAP by nearly $40 billion over the next decade, throwing several million people off the program.

As we’ve explained, the November 1 cut will hit all 48 million SNAP recipients across the country.  A household of three will lose $29 a month, equivalent to about 16 meals a month for a three-person family based on the cost of the Agriculture Department’s “Thrifty Food Plan.”

Without the Recovery Act’s boost, SNAP benefits in fiscal year 2014 will average less than $1.40 per person per meal.

The benefit cut will affect state economies as well.  As our analysis explains:

Studies show that in a distressed economy, every dollar of SNAP benefits creates at least about $1.70 in economic activity, as SNAP recipients spend their benefits on food quickly.  For example, California and Texas will each lose over $400 million in SNAP benefits that would have helped their residents eat in 2014; the potential economic impact is even greater.

For background on SNAP, see our Policy Basics and chartbook.  For background on the Recovery Act benefit boost and its expiration, see this analysis.

November 1 SNAP Cuts Will Hit All Recipients, Including Kids and Elderly

October 24, 2013 at 4:44 pm

The 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary boost in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits ends on November 1, which will mean a benefit cut for each of the nearly 48 million SNAP recipients — most of whom live in households with children, seniors, or people with disabilities.

Next week’s benefit cut will be substantial.  A household of three, such as a mother with two children, will lose $29 a month — a total of $319 for November 2013 through September 2014, the remaining 11 months of fiscal year 2014 (see chart).  That equals about 16 meals a month for a family of three based on the cost of U.S. Agriculture Department’s “Thrifty Food Plan.”

Most of the households that receive SNAP benefits include children, seniors, or people with disabilities, as we detail in a new analysis.  Nationally, more than 21 million children — that is, more than 1 in 4 of all children — live in a household that receives SNAP.  At least a quarter of children receive SNAP benefits in more than 30 states and the District of Columbia; in some states, this figure is more than 40 percent.  November’s SNAP cut for households with children will total $3.5 billion in the remaining 11 months of fiscal year 2014.  Similarly, more than 9 million seniors and people with disabilities receive SNAP.  Their households will experience a $1.2 billion benefit cut over the same period.

The depth and breadth of these cuts are unprecedented.  They are taking effect as the House and Senate Agriculture Committees begin their conference committee negotiations on the Farm Bill, which includes a reauthorization of — and proposed cuts to — SNAP.  The House version of the bill would cut SNAP by nearly $40 billion over the next 10 years, denying benefits to about 3.8 million people in 2014 and an average of 3 million people each year over the coming decade.

The committee’s members negotiating the final Farm Bill should keep next week’s benefit cut in mind as they consider whether to cut SNAP even more deeply.

Click here for the full paper and state-by-state data on the impact of the November 1 cuts.