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Biden cuts food assistance despite increased demand
Speaking Security Newsletter | Note n°202 | 6 April 2023
Extra funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) ended last month. These emergency allotments were enacted as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that Trump signed into law in March 2020. The additional benefits really made a difference: a three-month snapshot in late 2021, for example, showed they kept 4.2 million people out of poverty.
What killed the emergency allotments off was the FY2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act (also known as the FY2023 omnibus bill) that Biden signed into law in late December. Since then, food insecurity experts have been warning of a “hunger cliff” due to the precipitous drop in food assistance benefits ($95 or more per month).
My bet is that many of the 41 million people on SNAP were caught off-guard. Politicians didn’t mention it; the media failed to adequately cover it. Self-study was an option, but the bill was thousands of pages long and even if you spotted the specific provision that terminated the emergency allotments, it only left you like 60 days to prepare.
This means that despite the fact that SNAP enrollment is projected to increase in fiscal years 2023 and 2024 (as are food costs), there’ll be considerably fewer resources for SNAP to work with — greater demand but less supply. The opposite goes for the Pentagon — it’s getting more money for no real reason.How many people object to these divergent funding trajectories? How many are even aware?
^Alt text for screen readers: Biden cuts food assistance, increases military spending. This column chart shows the change in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Pentagon budget compared to enacted fiscal year 2022 levels. The food assistance program, displayed in dark red, shows a negative $32 billion reduction for fiscal year 2023 and a $35 billion drop for fiscal year 2024. Conversely, the orange columns representing the Pentagon budget show a $76 billion and $104 billion increase respectively for those years. I got the food assistance data from the Congressional Budget Office. Food assistance and military spending are both expressed in nominal figures.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not a reason to increase the Pentagon budget. In fact, Russia’s poor performance provides additional cause to reduce it. At any rate, the chart above expresses the Pentagon’s base budget, not its supplemental budget that funds military aid for Ukraine.