According to Michigan Farm Bureau, although proposed reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) called for in the House version of the 2018 farm bill have been a lightning-rod of Congressional debate and opposition, USDA data shows enrollment has dropped to its lowest level in eight years.
According to Michigan Farm Bureau National Legislative Counsel John Kran, SNAP enrollment has dropped from its peak of 47.6 million participants in 2013 to 40 million in March 2018.
“SNAP benefits are federally funded and based on an individual’s need, and all individuals who meet eligibility requirements are entitled to participate in the program,” Kran said. “SNAP participation rates tend to follow economic conditions, and since 2013, the national unemployment rate has dropped to 4.4 percent in 2017.”
Kran said SNAP participation rates tend to lag the unemployment rate, but since 2013, the national unemployment rate has dropped dramatically to 4.4 percent in 2017, the lowest annual average unemployment rate since 2000. Following the decline in unemployment, the SNAP participation rate declined by more than 5.5 million people — a decline of nearly 12 percent.
As a result, said Michael Nepveux, an economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), SNAP cost about $12 billion less in federal spending for 2017 than it did in 2013.
Additionally, after a sharp increase during the financial crisis, monthly average benefits per person have moderated and have now actually declined 5 percent since 2013.
USDA’s data also allows a breakdown on an annual basis of SNAP participation state-by-state, which Nepveux said shows variation in both enrollment percentages and logically, higher total participation in states with higher populations, with California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois leading the country for 2017.
“The general trend for the states follows the national numbers: a relatively steady level of participation leading up to the financial crisis, with sharper increases after the crisis, and a moderation or a decline since the peak participation years,” Nepveux said.
Similar to the national numbers, the majority of states have seen participation in SNAP decline since 2013, with only three states adding participants since that year: New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Nevada.
In terms of total participants exiting SNAP, Michigan led the way with a decline of more than 400,000 participants in those five years. Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Georgia, followed with declines between 323,000 and 370,000 participants for those states.
When examining states in terms of percentage declines of SNAP participants, other states rise to the top of the group. Maine led the way with a 28 percent decline of SNAP participants from 2013-2017, followed by Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky and Idaho with declines ranging from 25 percent to 27 percent.