What food stamp cuts will mean for Minnesota


In a desperate effort to expand Medicaid funding and maintain teacher jobs, the Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would cut funding for the federal food stamp program (officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP), by a whopping $11.9 billion by 2020.

Why would it consider such a measure?

The cuts will fund teacher jobs and extended Medicaid financing; both worthy programs. But what it really comes down to is the complete unwillingness of conservatives to pass any bills that involve increasing the size of the deficit, despite the fact that in the meantime, we’re completely undermining the economic recovery. But never mind that; Congress is attempting to further economic stimulus efforts by cutting funding for the one of the best stimulus programs on the books.

Here’s the SNAP statistical profile for Minnesota:

For anyone looking at that $114.18/month benefit and thinking it might be too generous, that works out to less than $4 per day. That’s barely enough to buy one McDonald’s meal, let alone provide your children with a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables.

While the full FY 2010 numbers aren’t in yet, a snap shot for May shows roughly 438,000 Minnesotans depend on SNAP to eat. That’s about 8% of our population. Of the people who receive food stamps in Minnesota, 11.7% of them, or about 1 in 9, do not have any other form of income. The planned cuts will reduce benefits for a family of three by about $50 per month, starting in 2014.This means that by cutting off the stimulus money we set aside for the already meager program, we’re draining the lifelines – quite literally – of thousands in our communities.

The indirect effect?

Cutting food money for some of the neediest in the country – including more than 438,00 Minnesotans currently participating in SNAP – isn’t just morally dubious; it’s something that we’ll all feel. These low-income families spur economic growth because they spend their money immediately at local businesses; the bang-for-buck on food stamp spending is about $1.74 for every dollar spent. That’s the highest rate of return of any of the spending options evaluated by Mark Zandi, of Moody’s Economy.com. The stimulus bang-for-buck for making the Bush tax cuts permanent? $0.32 per dollar spent.

So here’s an idea for those striving for deficit neutrality: instead of cutting the best stimulus program in use, let’s allow the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest in our communities to expire and spend the money on people who really need it.