By Dan Lesser
The Shriver Brief
SNAP is working.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) helps roughly 1 in 8 people in this country put food on the table each month by providing 100 percent federally-funded food assistance. SNAP helps children grow up healthy, adults go to work and achieve economic self-sufficiency, and other struggling individuals meet their basic needs. What’s more, because funding for the program is federally guaranteed and tied to need, SNAP ensures that regional disparities in hunger, poverty, and resources are properly addressed.
Yet despite the crucial role that SNAP plays in the well-being of millions of people and our entire economy, President Trump is proposing radical changes to the program that would blow holes in state budgets and sharply increase hunger.
Released earlier this month, President Donald Trump’s budget calls for cutting federal funding to SNAP by 25 percent and shifting this more than $100 billion in costs to state governments. A new report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities today documents the severe damage this would do.
Illinois — a state that is currently in its third year without a fully funded, year-long budget — is a prime example of the impact that the President’s proposed SNAP cuts would have.
Illinois is running an annual budget deficit of $6–8 billion and has accumulated around $15 billion in unpaid bills. Under Trump’s plan, Illinois would have to contribute more than $5 billion over the next ten years — an annual average of more than $500 million — to maintain current SNAP services levels.
We’ve seen this before — when the federal government reduces funding for safety net programs, states are simply unable to make up the difference and, as a result, eligibility is constricted and benefits are cut. Jobs would be lost. The state would be left even more vulnerable to future recessions. And nearly two million hungry Illinois children, low-wage workers, and other struggling men and women would be put at-risk of losing food assistance.
Even worse, in a fiscally troubled state like Illinois, those likely to be hardest hit by SNAP cuts are already bearing the brunt of the state’s budget crisis. The same people who have lost state social services would be the ones who would lose access to food assistance needed to avoid going hungry.
Illinois might be an extreme case, but this story of fiscal pain and deepened hunger would be similar in every state.
And, as we’ve written before, SNAP isn’t the only program that’s on the chopping block. If implemented, the Trump budget’s attacks on healthcare, housing assistance, and other anti-poverty efforts would devastate state budgets and drastically undermine the quality of life of tens of millions of people all around the country. All of this would be in service of huge tax cuts for big corporations and extremely wealthy households.
We must stop attacks on SNAP.
The Trump budget poses grave threats to millions of people. We should not presume that it is dead on arrival at Capitol Hill, as previous House Republican budgets have included SNAP cuts of similar magnitude. Advocates, constituents, and other stakeholders should take this proposal as seriously as the pain it would inflict on millions of Americans.
State lawmakers and elected officials must reject these cuts. The well-being of their constituents and indeed entire states is on the line.
The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law advances laws and policies that improve the lives of people living in poverty. Learn more at povertylaw.org.