Just before the holidays, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will decrease assistance to millions of American families. A halt in existing benefits provided by a 2009 law will go into effect in November, the USDA reports.
In 2009, a law called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) raised SNAP benefits in order to help families affected by the Recession. On November 1, those benefits will expire. According to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website, benefits depend on factors like income, household size, and household expenses, so it is “hard to say exactly how” peoples’ benefits will change.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the cuts will cause hardships for SNAP participants, including 22 million children, 10 million of whom live in “deep poverty,” and 9 million elderly or disabled people.
“This cut will be the equivalent of taking away 21 meals per month for a family of four, or 16 meals for a family of three, based on calculations using the $1.70 to $2 per meal provided for the Thrifty Food Plan,” the Center’s website states.
“For those of us who spend $1.70 a day on a latte this doesn’t seem like a big change, but it does kind of really highlight that millions of families are living on an extremely modest food budget,” said Stacy Dean, the vice president for food assistance policy at the CBPP.
The program currently serves more than 23 million households or 48 million people, nationwide, according to government data.
Last month, the USDA reported that the number of Americans who are “food insecure” remains elevated at Recession, or 2008, levels. In 2012, 17.6 million US households struggled with having enough food, and 7 million households had “very low food security.”
New research finds that the average American household earns less money today than it did at the end of the Recession. According to a study by Sentier Research, the median annual household income has fallen 4.4 percent since June 2009.
Last year, wages fell to a record low of 43.5 percent of the GDP.
Despite this, Republicans have been attempting to make more extensive cuts to the food stamp program. In September, the House voted to slash $40 billion from the food stamp program over the course of 10 years. Although Republicans allege rampant abuse in the system, USDA data shows that the vast majority of SNAP participants are either children or elderly.
Additionally, the majority of SNAP households with an adult who is not elderly or disabled work while they receive assistance; more than 80 percent of households work during the year before or after receiving SNAP benefits, the CBPP reports.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 14 million fewer people will be able to participate in SNAP by 2023 as a result of the budget cuts.
While the November 1 planned cuts could hurt participants, particularly because they come right before the holiday season, the Republican-led initiative to cut assistance in the future is even more worrisome.
In the United States, there is the issue of the prevalence of low-wage work as well as those citizens who have no work. According to The Prospect, “Most people who are poor work as much as they can and go in and out of poverty.” Low-wage work, encompassing people with incomes below twice the poverty line, accounted for 103 million people, or one-third of the population, in 2012.
In general, wages have become stagnant, even though worker productivity grew 80 percent from 1973 to 2011. During that time, median hourly compensation grew by just one-eighth that amount, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Since, 2000, productivity has risen 23 percent, while hourly pay flatlined.
Overall employee compensation – including health care and retirement benefits – has fallen to its lowest share of national income in more than 50 years, according to author Steven Greenhouse. Meanwhile, corporate profits have climbed to their highest share. The share of wages going to the top 1 percent of the population is sizable, and growing.
According to data from the Economic Policy Institute, since 1978, CEO pay increased by 725 percent – more than 127 times fast than worker pay increased during the same period. The Organisation for the Economic Co-operation and Development reports that “income inequality increased by more in the first three years of the [Recession] crisis to the end of 2010 than it had in the previous twelve years.”