SNAP is not only one of the most efficient and effective safety net programs, but it’s also helping improve other programs, CBPP’s Stacy Dean told a House Agriculture subcommittee yesterday.
Her testimony came as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled a plan that would convert SNAP (formerly food stamps) and ten other programs into a fixed grant to states (which, as CBPP President Robert Greenstein has written, would likely boost poverty and shrink resources for those programs over time).
SNAP’s targeting of benefits on those most in need and least able to afford an adequate diet helps ensure that the program provides the most assistance to the poorest families with the greatest needs, Dean explained:
These features make SNAP a powerful tool in fighting poverty. A CBPP analysis using the government’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which counts SNAP as income, found that SNAP kept 4.9 million people out of poverty in 2012, including 2.2 million children. SNAP lifted 1.4 million children above 50 percent of the poverty line in 2012, more than any other benefit program.
SNAP is also effective in reducing extreme poverty. A recent study by the National Poverty Center estimated the number of U.S. households living on less than $2 per person per day, a classification of poverty that the World Bank uses for developing nations. The study found that counting SNAP benefits as income cut the number of extremely poor households in 2011 by nearly half (from 1.6 million to 857,000) and cut the number of extremely poor children by more than half (from 3.6 million to 1.2 million).
Dean also explained SNAP’s part in — and positive contributions to — the larger health and human services system:
Other programs can rely upon SNAP’s rigorous and high-quality assessment of a household’s financial circumstances. These efforts can result in far more efficient application and enrollment systems as well as be the means to connect struggling families and seniors seamlessly to the benefits that can help them. Moreover, because SNAP’s assessment of eligibility is robust, using its eligibility determination or verified information can increase program integrity and accountability in other programs.
Click here for the full testimony.