ED BOARD MEMO: Federal Budget Proposal Would Blow Nearly $700 Million Hole in PA Budget by Shifting Food Assistance Costs


To: Editorial Page Editors, Editorial Board Members, Capitol Reporters, Columnists, and Other Interested Parties

From: Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center

Date: June 13, 2017

Re: Federal Budget Proposal Would Blow Nearly $700 Million Hole in Pennsylvania Budget by Shifting Food Assistance Costs

Despite campaign promises to protect working families in a tough economy, Republican leaders in Washington, D.C., are targeting food assistance that helps low-income workers feed their families. President Trump’s budget would make deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, which millions of struggling working families use to afford food when hard times hit, as well as many senior citizens and people with disabilities. Unfortunately, news reports indicate that the House of Representatives is considering similar cuts to SNAP in its budget resolution, which is expected this month.

A significant portion of the cuts would come from shifting $116 billion in costs to states – including over $4.7 billion to our state over ten years. To put this cost in perspective, a cut of this size is MORE than what we spend in the state budget on all county assistance services for the entire state of Pennsylvania on an annual basis and is twice what we spend annually on the Department of Environmental Protection. Given the size of this cost shift, our state would have no other choice but to drastically cut back benefits for SNAP participants – which they would be allowed to do under the proposal to manage their costs – or cut state funding for other critical programs, or raise taxes, (or some combination of these three options).


Pennsylvania legislators are already struggling to balance our state budget with a nearly $3 billion budget shortfall projected this year. Even if states like Pennsylvania are able to pay an average of 80 percent of their required share, SNAP benefits would fall by more than $25 per person per month on average, according to a new report, which will also have impacts on our local economy.



Proposal Abandons Our National Commitment to Ensure No Child Goes Hungry


By forcing states to cover 25 percent of SNAP costs, the federal government would be reneging on our commitment to tackle hunger as a national issue and leave state budgets and our most vulnerable, including children, people with disabilities and the elderly, in the lurch. SNAP is one of our most powerful and cost-effective tools to strengthen the economy and improve public health. SNAP not only reduces poverty and hunger, but also improves opportunity for children in Pennsylvania and across the country. Before we made a national commitment to end hunger, some areas of the country had serious problems with hunger, including children suffering from severe malnutrition.


If states have the option of cutting benefits, as proposed in the President’s budget, more people would be at risk of hunger, recessions would be harsher, geographic disparity in food insecurity would increase, and other costs to government would go up. Proposals to shift costs to states are a radical departure from SNAP’s basic, proven design. Since its bipartisan origin, SNAP has operated as a national program with benefits paid by the federal government — a structure that was intended to address the enormous disparity in hunger and poverty across states.


And contrary to the Administration’s argument that these cuts will help people work, taking away food assistance doesn’t make people work harder. SNAP participants who can work already do so in large numbers – cuts to SNAP would just makes them hungrier and less healthy. If the Administration truly wanted to help SNAP participants and others find good, sustainable jobs, it wouldn’t be cutting job-training grants by 40 percent in the same budget proposal that cuts SNAP.



SNAP is Working in Pennsylvania


Too many Pennsylvanians are still struggling financially, whether they’ve lost their job, can only find part-time work, or are managing a health crisis or other emergency. 12.4% of households in Pennsylvania are “food insecure,” or struggle to afford a nutritionally adequate diet. 13.2% of the population in Pennsylvania lives below the poverty line. 19% of children live below the poverty line. 7.8% of elderly live below the poverty line.


SNAP is a lifeline for these workers and their families. 65% of SNAP participants are in families with children. 41% are in working families. By helping them put food on the table, the program helps them get back on their feet more quickly. In recent years, SNAP kept 342,000 people out of poverty in Pennsylvania, including 138,000 children. For more information about SNAP’s impact in Pennsylvania visit: http://bit.ly/2tfsVmU.


SNAP also supports local economic growth. Families spend their SNAP benefits at local grocery stores and other retailers, driving $2.7 billion into our state’s economy each year. If SNAP is cut, retailers could take a hit, and many of our communities, especially in rural areas, could lose businesses and jobs.


The impact of SNAP can last a lifetime. Because access to an adequate diet is essential for developing the skills to be successful in school, children who receive SNAP do better in the classroom. Research shows that people who received food stamps as young children are more likely to graduate from high school, and less-likely to suffer long-term health problems like obesity and heart disease.


With the House of Representatives considering similar cuts to SNAP in its budget resolution, members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation have the opportunity to take a stand for Pennsylvanians by protecting the millions of families who participate in SNAP and rejecting these misguided attacks in the President’s budget and subsequent Congressional budget resolutions. Children, seniors, the unemployed, and people with disabilities in our state will pay the price if these drastic cuts are approved.