by Michael Bastasch
The number of food stamp dependent Americans hit a six-year low in President Donald Trump’s first year in office, reflecting an improving economy and falling unemployment, according to a U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) report.
An average of 42.2 million Americans participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program in 2017, which is an 11 percent decrease from 2013, when a record number of people used food stamps, according to USDA.
“Federal spending for SNAP totaled $68.0 billion or 4 percent less than in the previous fiscal year,” USDA reported. “This was also 15 percent less than the historical high of $79.9 billion set in FY 2013.”
It’s the fourth year in a row SNAP participation fell. Previously, the number of people on food stamps grew for 12 years. About 13 percent of Americans used food stamps in 2017. That’s well above pre-recession levels.
Better economic conditions reduce food stamp participation, but some states’ welfare reforms have also played a role.
The Obama administration allowed states to waive work requirements for food stamps as part of the 2009 stimulus package. The number of childless adults on food stamps doubled after that rule change.
Thirteen Alabama counties saw food stamp use drop 85 percent between January and May 2017 once work requirements were put in place for childless adults. More than two dozen counties in Georgia saw food stamp participation drop precipitously after work requirements were restored.
The number of Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) participants hit a 17-year low. In 2017, 7.3 million people on average used the program, USDA reported.
The WIC program is for “low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women as well as infants and children up to age five who are at nutritional risk,” USDA said.
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