Last Thursday, Breitbart posted an article about the declining number of Americans using the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) program. The program was altered in 2013 to add a work requirement to the program, but the Obama administration made it very easy for states with high unemployment numbers to waive that work requirement, and many states did. Now that fewer people are unemployed, many of those state waivers are no longer in force.
The article reports:
Enrollment in the food stamp program plunged by more than 1.3 million since Trump’s inauguration month, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The USDA data reveals that the number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants fell from 42,676,312 in January 2017 when Trump took office to 41,324,904 in December 2017—a decrease of 1,351,408.
Although enrollment in SNAP sharply increased by 3.5 million during the first month of fiscal year (FY) 2018 (October 2017) due to temporary SNAP enrollment in hurricane-affected states, the data shows that enrollment in the food stamp program has declined on the whole over the first calendar year of Trump’s presidency.
The most recent data of food stamp participation available reveals that from November 2017 to December 2017, 333,984 people discontinued their participation in SNAP.
The number of people dropping off the food stamp rolls is a continuation of a bigger trend that has been taking place since 2013.
Food stamp enrollment steadily declined after 2013, when participation in the government program swelled to 47.6 million—the highest amount it has ever been since former President Lyndon Johnson authorized the creation of the food stamp program in 1964. Taxpayers spent $79.8 million on SNAP when enrollment reached its peak in 2013.
After 2013, enrollment in SNAP declined as states passed laws requiring food stamp recipients to work, volunteer, be in school, or take part in job training for a set number of hours a week to receive food stamps. The improving economy also contributed to the continuing decline in food stamp usage.
The decline in enrollment is due to both the requirement that food stamp recipients work and the improving economy. Most of the work requirements are very easily met–volunteer work, job training, attending school–things that will help equip a person to find a job or find a better job. Ideally the aim of any government assistance program should be to help people become successful enough not to need the program. Unfortunately it does not always work that way. The danger (and we have watched this happen) in creating a government assistance program is that a giant bureaucracy is created to run the program. Obviously the people in the bureaucracy managing that program need people in the program in order for the bureaucracy to continue. That has an impact on the bureaucrats desire to see people leave the program. Somehow we have to find a way to motivate those in the bureaucracy overseeing assistance programs (and those in Congress) of creating a situation where these programs are no longer needed.