Fiscal policy / Regulation

The SNAP Trap, “Non-Excessive” Funding

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

The 2009 Recovery Act was scheduled to have its boost to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) reduced when it expired on November 1. For households of three, this will be reduced by $29/month reducing monthly assistance from $63 to $37, Single person households’ SNAP benefits will be cut $11/month, and two-person households’ cut $20/month and four-person households’ cut $36/month.

According to the Center for American Progress, every $1 billion cut to SNAP benefits leads to the loss of 13,718 jobs. A ten percent cut in SNAP funding would lead to the elimination of 96,000 jobs. Most jobs lost would be in food-related industries, and of which a disproportionate amount are young workers, 16-24 year olds. Nearly one third of all grocery workers are in the young age group. This amount is disproportionate because youth make up fourteen percent of the total workers.

Underneath the automatic cut from the Stimulus boost in 2009, $5 billion will be cut from SNAP, and according to the Center for American Progress, the cut will lead to the loss of 68,590 jobs. In junction with this automatic cut, more cuts could occur from the farm bill proposals by the Senate and House. Additionally, many states have already let lapse the period for acquiring federal waivers to give SNAP benefits to people living in areas of high unemployment. 

Youth in Food-Related Industries

According to the Department of Labor, 4,110,400 people worked in food-related industries in 2010. If the related loss of jobs is accurate at 68,590, then the percentage of jobs lost in the market will be two percent. This is if the all the jobs lost were in food-related services.

According to the Department of Labor 419,000 youth were employed in agricultural and related industries. If the 68,590 jobs which are estimated to be lost are all lost in this industry, then the seventeen percent of the employed youth will lose their jobs in that industry. That being said, the amount of lost jobs compared to total employment of the youth is less than one percent.

The amount of lost jobs is negligible regarding the youth employment and is an even smaller fraction of jobs lost when compared to the total amount of workers in America. The labor force was 136 million in September 2013, of which 19 million were youth workers. The elimination of SNAP doesn’t hurt the job market clearly, and for cost-cutters, SNAP is vulnerable because it doesn’t increase employment. 

Hispanic Young Workers

As of 2012, twenty percent of the youth workers were Hispanic. In that age group, Hispanics are the largest minority, and are a larger percentage of workers than the other minorities combined. This trend also reflects in the actual population of the youth, where Hispanics are twenty-one percent of the total population and still remain larger as an ethnicity than African-Americans and Asians combined.

Hispanic Poverty

The reality is that SNAP itself is helping 47 million Americans fight off starvation and poverty. That being said, in my age group of 16-24 year olds, 6,246,000 are living in poverty, which amounts to seventeen percent of us living in poverty. Out of the “47 million” in SNAP, that means thirteen percent of us will lose some of the only assistance possible for my age group. Out of this total number of poverty-stricken youth, twenty-three percent of them are Hispanic. This frightening poverty crisis for Hispanics seems to rank a lower concern in terms of minority issues.

The SNAP Trap

The cutting of SNAP funding or the elimination of the program is wrong in economic policy on two accounts. The first being addressed is the impact on the economy. While very few jobs would be eliminated, it would severely impact already financially threatened households. It would thrust 6 million young Americans deeper into poverty, and specifically 1.5 million young Hispanics.

Secondly, in terms of the cutting the budget, SNAP is a small piece of the government budget. As of the 2012 Fiscal year, SNAP was $74 billion in total budget, when the total budget was $3.7 trillion. It is impossible for farmers to conceive better economic conditions without better immigration reform, and the inverse for Hispanics is true. Immigration and the farm bill, of which SNAP is a part, are tied together.

There is a need for fiscal responsibility. However, SNAP is one of the rare programs aimed at helping young people escape poverty. For young Hispanics, SNAP provides meal assistance necessary for them to live. In the scope of reduction, it would be better to target larger, more expensive legislation.