Skip to contentNational Women's Law Center

SNAP (Food Stamps)

A Closer Look at Re-Branding Budget Proposals: “Flexibility” For SNAP

While we’ve already pointed out that the budget resolution released this week by House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) claims to address the plight of struggling American families, but its proposals would almost certainly increase poverty and inequality—I wanted to take a closer look at its proposal for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). SNAP provides low-income families with access to nutritious food; it is one of the most reliable supports for families during tough economic times and one of the most effective programs in alleviating poverty.  SNAP served 46.5 million people in 22.7 million households on average each month in FY 2014. 

The Price budget converts SNAP to a “State Flexibility Fund,” which it claims would give “state governments…the power to administer the program in ways that best fit the needs of their communities with greater incentives to achieve better results.” This is a round-about way of announcing that the budget would cut funding for the program and get rid of the feature of the program that guarantees that all eligible people can receive the food assistance they need, when they need it—the very feature that currently allows SNAP to be flexible and increase funding automatically to adjust to demand. Read more »

Without the Safety Net, Millions More Would Have Lived in Poverty in 2013

I have good news and bad news. I’m the type who always wants to hear the bad news first, so here it is: newly released Census Bureau data show that more than 45 million Americans lived in poverty last year. Read more »

7 Reasons the Ryan April Fool's Day Budget Is No Joke

House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) chose this morning, April 1, to release his Fiscal Year 2015 budget.  Although calling a budget that guts programs helping struggling families and gives millionaires and corporations trillions of dollars in new tax cuts “The Path to Prosperity” is laughable, this budget is no joke.

  1. It slashes the federal budget by more than $5.1 trillion over the next 10 years, and programs serving low-income people—mostly women and their families—bear the brunt of the cuts.  The cuts are $500 billion deeper than in the draconian budget Rep. Ryan proposed  last year.
  2. The budget repeals the Affordable Care Act , slashes and dismantles Medicaid, and replaces the Medicare guarantee with a limited subsidy. 
  3. It slashes SNAP/Food Stamps, limits eligibility, and turns the program into a block grant that would not respond to increased need during recessions.   
  4. It cuts the funding available for other safety net programs, including Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Section 8 Housing Subsidies, the Low-Income Energy Program Assistance Program, and more. 

Heat or Eat?

There are some choices you should never be forced to make – whether to heat your home or serve dinner is right at the top of my list. There shouldn’t be an “or” between those needs, but some members of Congress are determined to cut assistance for low-income people even when it’s desperately needed.

Food stamp benefits were just reduced – cut to about $1.40 per meal – and the U.S. is facing its coldest weather in years. Now, we’re asking low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and struggling families whether to “heat or eat”? You can’t be serious. Read more »

4th Graders Can't Fight Poverty Alone

The word poverty is being thrown around a lot this week as many of us pause to reflect on the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty. But poverty is a tough concept to really wrap your head around. When I was teaching 4th grade in a public school in rural Louisiana I spent much of my time attempting to understand the realities of a life in deep poverty, and problem solving alongside my students and their families as they struggled to live from day to day.

Today there are many programs serving children and families living in poverty. Each program has different beginnings – most of them rooted in supports born out of the War on Poverty, each has evolved in its own way, each has its champions, each has its critics, but at the end of the day these supports help “my kids” and their families survive. There’s lots of data out there (much of it from my colleagues here at NWLC) that shows X families depend on Y program. But behind these numbers are real people—like my brilliant, resilient, stubborn, inventive kids – and they depend on these programs. I’ve changed their names below—but these are real stories. Read more »

5 Public Programs That Lift Millions of Women and Children Out of Poverty

In 2012, Social Security kept 12.1 million women and 1 million children out of poverty.

This new statistic can be calculated based on data released today by the Census Bureau. Also part of the release of new data is a report on the supplemental poverty measure (SPM) which takes into account the impact of public programs, as well as medical out-of-pocket and other expenses on families’ economic security. For more about poverty measurement, see our FAQ.

This past September, the Census Bureau released the official poverty numbers for 2012, which showed that women’s poverty remained historically high, with 17.8 million women (14.5 percent) in poverty. Our report detailed what the numbers looked like and the trends over time. But what we didn’t get to see in that data was how many people’s incomes were pulled above the poverty line by specific public programs, some of which are counted in the official poverty measure and some of which aren’t. Today, we can delve deeper into how many people were lifted out of poverty by these programs and who they were. Read more »

How the Shutdown Is Hurting Low-Income Families

We’re on Day 4 of the first federal government shutdown in 17 years. Here in D.C., the subway and the streets are noticeably emptier without thousands of federal workers on the job. And while a few might be enjoying their time off to take advantage of the shutdown-themed happy hours around town, most are worried about the financial consequences of a prolonged shutdown for themselves and their families (especially since many have already faced pay freezes and furloughs thanks to the sequester and other budget cuts).

But it’s not just the 800,000 furloughed federal workers who are affected by the shutdown. Some federal contractors won’t get paid, either – including workers making close to minimum wage who are unlikely to have much in the way of savings to fall back on. And low-income families who depend on federally funded programs are suffering, too. For example:

Poverty at home: How’s Your State Doing?

Not in my backyard.

We all know it’s easier to brush off problems that happen to other people, in other places. You might be frustrated about the injustices happening out there, but at least you can go to bed imagining things are okay right here.

NWLC just crunched some more state-by-state poverty data that the U.S. Census Bureau released yesterday, and I can tell you this: Things are not okay right here, wherever you may be.  

The national poverty data released on Tuesday showed that national poverty rates didn’t improve in 2012 and women and children continued to be disproportionately affected by poverty.   Some of the facts in the state-by-state poverty data will also make you cringe: Read more »

Stop Tax Haven Abuse—Another Way to Fight Poverty and Inequality

It’s been a roller coaster week, and it’s not over yet. Disappointing news from the Census Bureau that we didn’t make progress reducing poverty or the wage gap last year. Exciting news from the Department of Labor about a new rule that brings home care workers one giant step closer to fair pay. The threat that the House will vote later today to slash vital SNAP (Food Stamp) benefits for millions of Americans and vote tomorrow to extend the sequester for several more months. The sequester vote will include yet another effort to defund the Affordable Care Act.

But even in Congress, there are some encouraging developments. Yesterday, several Members of Congress turned out for a special game of Chutes and Ladders (with hula hoops!) to show their support for investing in early learning. And today, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and cosponsors Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act to close offshore tax loopholes. Read more »

One Lesson From Yesterday’s Poverty Numbers: Don’t Play Politics with the Social Safety Net

In 2012, 46.5 million people, including nearly 17.8 million women and 16 million children, were living in poverty, according to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau yesterday. Numbers that big are often difficult to comprehend, but the message is clear: we have a long way to go to end poverty in America.

Although these new data confirm that the poverty rate remains stubbornly high, it is also important to note that without key safety net programs, the statistics would be far worse. What we know for sure is that programs like Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps (SNAP), and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), lift millions of people out of poverty and reduce hardship for millions more.

SNAP benefits are not counted as income in Census Bureau’s official poverty numbers—but we know they make a real difference to struggling families. For example, the Census Bureau reported today that if SNAP benefits had been counted as income, the 2012 poverty rate would be 1.3 percentage points lower—and four million more people would be above the poverty line.

Read more »