White Paper

HIA of Proposed Changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Farm Bill

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Overview

This brief summarizes findings from an ongoing health impact assessment (HIA) of proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The HIA is being conducted by the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The intent of an HIA is to raise awareness of the potential impacts among policymakers, people affected by a decision, and others with an interest in the outcome. The methods used in this analysis include a systematic literature review; analysis by Mathematica Policy Research using a model developed for the United States Department of Agriculture to aid in SNAP administration; and interviews with SNAP administrators at the state and local levels.

SNAP is the federal government’s principal program for helping low-income families purchase enough food. Federal spending on SNAP has grown from $34.8 billion in FY 2007 to $80.4 billion in FY 2012. This growth in spending has been attributed to several factors, including the rise in poverty and unemployment during the recent recession (leading to higher participation rates); changes in state eligibility practices; and a temporary increase in benefit amounts conferred by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts that under current policies, SNAP spending will fall in coming years as the ARRA benefit increase expires in November 2013 and the economy continues to recover.

Both Senate- and House-introduced bills (S. 954 and H.R. 1947) seek to reduce spending on SNAP by making changes to both the procedures states use to determine eligibility for the program and the amount of benefits that some participating households receive. The changes to SNAP proposed by these bills are the subject of this health impact assessment.

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Jessica Hallstrom

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