Budget Summary: SNAP
Alice Fitzgerald | January 2024
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, has been one of the most important and effective anti-hunger programs since its creation in the 1960s.
Known in Kansas as the Food Assistance Program, SNAP provides qualifying low-income households with food benefits, access to a healthy diet, and education on food preparation and nutrition.
SNAP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) at the federal level with states operating their own programs at a local level. The program serves roughly 40 million people across the country and operates in all 50 states, tribal nations, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories.
The federal government pays the full cost (100%) of SNAP benefits to households enrolled in the program, while the federal government and the state equally share the administrative costs. Classified as an “entitlement” program, SNAP benefits do not have a budget cap and are instead available to all individuals who meet the federal and state eligibility criteria. This means spending on the program varies depending on how many people qualify for benefits, which is in turn heavily influenced by the state of the economy and legislative changes to the program.
Average participation and benefit cost data collected since 1969 demonstrates participation rising during economic recessions (like the late 1980s to early 1990s, much of 2001 through 2011, and 2020 through 2022 as a result of the pandemic) and falling during strong economic times.
While the cost of the program has continued to climb due to inflationary adjustments and the aforementioned factors, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the largest increase in total benefits – more than $30 billion between FY 2020 and FY2021 — as more people needed to access benefits and benefit amounts were increased to meet more drastic needs.
SNAP participants in Kansas received $265.3 million in benefits in 2019, $336.6 million in 2020, $488.5 million in 2021, and $558.9 million in 2022 (including temporary pandemic relief in 2020 through 2022).
Program Participation in Kansas
To qualify for SNAP, applicants must meet certain financial and non-financial eligibility requirements. Basic eligibility requirements are set at the federal level; however, states are permitted to create additional requirements. Citizens and qualified non-citizens with a household income at or below 130% of the federal poverty level qualify for SNAP.
SNAP targets benefits according to need. Households with very low incomes receive more SNAP benefits than households closer to the poverty line because they need more help affording adequate food. Benefits are issued on an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, which operates with a declining balance like a debit card. Benefits are not cash, may not be accessed at an automatic teller machine, and are redeemable only for allowable foods. Benefits may be redeemed for foods at licensed retailers, which may include a wide variety of businesses so long as the seller meet licensing requirements.
The average monthly benefit has generally increased over time, but state legislative changes in 2014 decreased the maximum allowable benefit for the first time in its history. The monthly average reached an all-time high during the COVID-19 pandemic as supplemental relief funds were added to many safety net programs. With all supplemental relief funding expiring in 2023, the average is projected to fall to $171 per person.
In FY 2022, 195,800 Kansas residents, or 7% of the state population, received SNAP benefits. Of these, more than 54% were in working families, more than 37% included elderly family members, and more than 68% were in families with minor children. Each year from 2013 to 2017, the food assistance program lifted 65,000 Kansans out of poverty, improving outcomes for children, their families, and their communities.
Decades of research has documented the positive impact of SNAP for recipients across the nation. Some of these include:
- Decreased health care costs, particularly for conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
- Reducing low birth weight rates.
- Lessening the risk of delayed development in children.
- Improving student outcomes through good nutrition.
- Freeing up household budgets for other necessities like medications or transportation.
Kansas lawmakers could make SNAP more effective for low-income Kansans to ensure they can access the nutrition they need to work, learn, grow, and thrive. Policy solutions include:
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