The cash assistance benefits that some poor families receive through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program are already low, as states have allowed inflation to erode their value over time. Now, other support that many of these same families receive is poised to fall, too, when a temporary increase in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) benefits ends next week.
As we explain in our updated analysis of state TANF programs, TANF’s benefits are worth at least 20 percent less than they were in 1996 in 37 states, after adjusting for inflation. In every state, a family of three with no other cash income other than TANF falls below 50 percent of the federal poverty line.
Many TANF families — about 81 percent — receive SNAP benefits, which provide them with critical nutrition support. But even the combination of the two programs doesn’t lift these families above the poverty line (see chart).
The coming SNAP cut will make it even harder for these families to meet their basic needs. The 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary boost to SNAP benefits, which will end on November 1, will cut benefits for every SNAP household. For a family of three, the cut will be $29 a month — or $319 over the remaining 11 months of the fiscal year.
That cut will more than wipe out even the small TANF benefit gains that seven states have already implemented this year. (Maryland is implementing a TANF increase of $48 for a family of three as of November 1.) These are serious losses, especially in light of the already very low basic SNAP — and TANF — benefits.