The House Republican budget unveiled last month converts the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, into a federal block grant to the states, costing the program $125 billion in funding over the next decade. It also cuts an additional $10 billion from the program after the transition is completed.
Such reform would result in more than 12 million Americans losing access to food assistance, but it would also have dire effects on the American labor market, according to a study from the Center for American Progress. A 2012 CAP study found that the House GOP budget’s SNAP cuts would cost the economy roughly 174,000 jobs. Using the same data, which estimates that every $1 billion in cuts would cost the economy 13,700 jobs, an analysis found that the most recent iteration would lead to the loss of more than 342,000 jobs in the first year of cuts alone, Half In Ten’s Melissa Boateach writes:
The proposed block grant would go into effect in 2019, forcing draconian cuts to the program in just the five years from 2019 to 2024. Assuming that these cuts will be spread out evenly over the five years, our analysis of a 2012 Center for American Progress study estimates that the House Republican budget nutrition block grant would cost the economy 342,950 jobs in the first year alone and hit the food industry especially hard. [...]
According to our analysis of the 2012 CAP study, the 2019 SNAP cuts, for example, would result in approximately 11,300 jobs lost in retail including grocery stores, 21,000 jobs lost in food manufacturing and agriculture, and 8,250 jobs lost in trucking and warehousing.
The desire to block grant SNAP comes from two false beliefs among Republicans: first, that the block granting of welfare in 1996 was successful and second, that SNAP’s growth during the Great Recession has made it unsustainable. But the 1996 welfare reform law has been a massive failure, as it hasn’t gotten benefits to many of America’s neediest families and children. It especially failed during the recession, when it didn’t keep up with increases in unemployment and poverty.
SNAP, on the other hand, grew as the economy contracted, both automatically and because states and the federal government made it more generous. Its enrollment is still larger than it was before the recession, but that isn’t shocking: poverty rates and income levels are both worse than they were before the recession too. Still, as the economy improves, SNAP is projected to shrink back to its normal size. In short, the program that is shielded from state budget whims worked as it was supposed to during the recession; the program that is under state control wasn’t working before the recession and got even worse as the economy slumped. And as the CAP study makes clear, block granting SNAP to states wouldn’t just leave millions more without a vital piece of the social safety net. It would also cost the country hundreds of thousands of jobs.