2M households could lose SNAP benefits if proposed changes in House Farm Bill go through

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

2M households could lose SNAP benefits if proposed changes in House Farm Bill go through
Proposed changes in the House Farm Bill (HR 2) being debated on the hill this week could cost millions of US households grappling with food insecurity access to benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, according to findings released today by Mathematica Policy Research.

At the same time, the changes, which are not in the Senate’s version of the bill, could extend eligibility for SNAP to roughly 283,000 households – slightly offsetting the overall impact, which would still cause an estimated 8% drop in eligible participating households, according to the research, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The estimates are based on a microsimulation developed for the US Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service that simulates fiscal year 2015 federal and state SNAP policies using 2011 data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation and fiscal 2014 SNAP Quality Control data. Given that the number of SNAP participating households has decreased since 2015, the number of households impacted by the changes could be “somewhat smaller if the provisions of HR 2 were enacted this year,”​ according to the researchers.

What are the changes?

The impact on who qualifies for benefits is based on two main changes to eligibility proposed by the house.

The first is a change in how a household's ‘countable resources’ are tabulated. The House bill proposes raising the level of resources that households could have and still qualify for benefits. Specifically, it wants to raise the amount of allowable countable resources for most households from $2,250 to $7,000 and if an elderly or disabled person lives in the household it wants to raise the cap to $12,000 from $3,500. It also wants exempt $2,000 in savings from the countable resources, and allow beneficiaries to have a higher valued vehicle and still qualify.

While these changes will open eligibility to some families that do not currently qualify, the House proposal to eliminate so called broad-based categorical eligibility offsets some of this expansion.

Currently, some states have ‘broad-based categorical eligibility policies’ that allow households that qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to automatically qualify for SNAP, even if they exceed some of the SNAP thresholds.

Who specifically is impacted?

If these changes go into effect, more than 2 million households participating in SNAP in fiscal 2015 would lose their eligibility, 34% of whom are seniors, 23% of whom are children and 11% of whom have disabilities, according to the microsimulation.

Taking a closer look just at the households impacted that have children, 6% also have a senior and 10% have a member with a disability and 53% lived in poverty.

“Among households that would gain eligibility and choose to participate, an estimated 10,000 include a member with a disability, 89,000 include a senior, and 128,000 include a child,”​ according to the brief.

The intention of the brief is to provide policymakers “with crucial information about the effects of proposed policy changes on SNAP participants,”​ as they debate the next Farm Bill, according to the assessment.

With that in mind, Mathematica plans to release additional research briefs using microsimulation modeling to explore other impacts of proposed changes to SNAP under the House version of the Farm Bill, such as proposed work requirements.

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