Today 47 million Americans on food stamps will see their benefits slashed by 13 percent as the program takes a $5 billion budget hit. If Republicans have their way, this could just be the beginning. The GOP-led House wants to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $39 billion over the next ten years, which would lower the cap on benefits and boot 4 million people from the program altogether. Though food security has yet to reach pre-recession levels, there will be more cuts to the program over the next few years. The only question is how steep they'll be.
This cut marks the end of increased funding for the program provided by the 2009 Recovery Act. Better known as the Stimulus, the Recovery Act raised the maximum cap on food stamp aid and gave the program's funding a $45.2 billion boost. Between 2007 and 2012 the number of individuals on food stamps rose from 26 million to almost 47 million, and the average benefits rose from $96.18 to $133.41.
Due to the expiration of stimulus funding, the program is guaranteed to lose $6 billion in funding during fiscal years 2015 and 2016. Those cuts come as more and more people on food stamps turn to food banks to fill in their limited budgets (currently food stamp maximums provide enough for less than $1.40 a meal). Anecdotal evidence show that food banks have seen more, not less traffic, during the economic recovery, and the sequester's five percent cut to TEFAP, which helps food banks store and distribute food, isn't helping matters either.
In September House Republicans passed a revised U.S. Farm Bill that would have cut $39 billion from the food stamps program over the next ten years. Before that, in May the House Agriculture Committee approved a bill that proposed $20.5 billion in cuts, but was blocked in the House by Democrats (for obvious, anti-benefit reduction reasons) and some Republicans (who wanted bigger cuts). Even without the cuts, however, the program is still projected to cost $700 billion over the next decade. This week members of the House and Senate began to negotiate a deal—some predict that Democrats and Republicans will compromise with an $8 billion to $12 billion cut to the program.