Nearly 360,000 people dropped off the food stamp rolls in September, according to new data from the Department of Agriculture (USDA). There were over 400,000 fewer food stamp recipients for the month than there had been in September 2012, the first such year-over-year decline since 2007, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
Enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, otherwise known as food stamps) fell from 47,665,056 people in August to 47,305,667 in September. That drop reflects 94,000 fewer households that participated in the anti-hunger program. The previous two Septembers had seen rising enrollment, the data show, and enrollment levels in September 2013 were down by 404,616 individuals compared to September 2012.
SNAP enrollment will continue to decline over the coming years as the economy improves. The program’s costs will collapse to half of their crisis-era highs by 2023 if Congress simply does nothing, according to Center on Budget and Policy Priorities projections issued in November.
The very nature of anti-poverty programs means that they cost more and enroll more people during times of economic hardship and that economic recoveries drive down demand for the services the program provides. But despite the predictable downward slope of SNAP costs and a steep automatic cut that went into effect in November, lawmakers are determined to take a further bite out of the program. Republicans — many of whom incorrectly believe that the food stamps program is highly susceptible to fraud or that it encourages poor people to remain poor rather than work to better their lot — have tried to cut $40 billion out of the program, a 5 percent slice that would knock millions of vulnerable people off of SNAP.
Democrats have sought to cut costs without booting hungry Americans from the SNAP rolls, but even their highly technical counterproposal for cutting food stamps is of dubious value. About 50 million Americans are food insecure and job openings remain far too scarce for people who rely on SNAP to be able to replace lost income from a benefit cut.