RUSSELL: Food stamp enrollment historically high


BY: Jason Russell | Washington Examiner

More than 46 million Americans received food stamps in 2014, 20 million more than before the recession started. Total costs for the year, which will end up being roughly $80 billion, are twice as high as in 2007, when costs were $38 billion, after adjusting for inflation.

The liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report Monday lamenting that 1 million current recipients will lose food stamp eligibility in fiscal year 2016. But one million fewer enrollees is only a 2 percent reduction in food stamp participation.
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Food stamp enrollment remains historically high. Enrollment levels have never been this high before, aside from the Great Recession. Prior to 2008, peak food stamp enrollment was 27.5 million in 1994. Total costs also peaked at an inflation-adjusted $39 billion in 1994, aside from the Great Recession.
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The rise of ineligibility is caused by a three-month time limit on food stamp benefits over 36 months. The time limit is waived in areas with high unemployment rates, but the report’s author expects more areas to lose their waivers as unemployment falls.

Disabled adults, however, will not be affected by the time limits. Nor will adults with any dependents. Even those working part-time, at least 20 hours a week, will remain eligible for food stamps.

The only enrollees cut off by the time limits are able-bodied people who are not working and do not have dependents to support. Those who cannot find work can also remain eligible by joining a work training program.

Those who are looking for work but cannot find it will be cut off. However, 12.8 weeks is the current median duration of unemployment, right around 3 months.

The income limits for food stamps still apply, regardless of employment status. A household of one cannot earn more than $1,265 per month, while a two-person household cannot earn more than $1,705 per month. Other eligibility restrictions and exemptions apply.

The report cites sudden drops in SNAP participation after time limits were implemented in Kansas and Oklahoma. Perhaps not coincidentally, employment is higher today in both those states than it was just prior to time limits taking effect.

In Oklahoma, employment grew by 5,700 in January 2014, the month after the time limit was imposed. Thirty-two thousand total jobs have been created since the waiver ended. In Kansas, employment did drop by 2,500 jobs in the month after time limits were imposed on benefits. However, job creation there increased by 9,700.

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