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Fewer people relying on food stamps

The trend is a sign that the average American household's finances are improving.

By Money Staff May 30, 2014 12:09PM

This post comes from John W. Schoen at partner site CNBC.

CNBC on MSN MoneyAs the lingering impact of the Great Recession slowly recedes, so are the numbers of American families who rely on government help to put food on the table.

A Georgia's food stamp card © ZUMA Press/Alamy
After a surge in 2008, government spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, has peaked and begun falling, according to an analysis of the latest data by the research institute Center on Budget Policy and Priorities. So have the number of participants collecting SNAP benefits.

Apart from easing the burden on the government's budget, the decline is a sign of improvement in the average American household's financial footing.

"In the past food stamps participation has been something of a leading indicator, so it may mean that the economic recovery is being felt more broadly," said Dottie Rosenbaum, a CBPP senior fellow and co-author of the analysis. "To the extent that it is because people's economic circumstances have improved, that's the role it is intended to play and we think that's the main reason it is coming down."

Government benefits like SNAP and unemployment insurance are supposed to act as "shock absorbers" for the economy, dampening the impact of severe downturns like the Great Recession.

In addition to easing the financial pain for households at the bottom of the economic ladder, they help blunt the wider impact of the drop in consumer spending that accompanies high levels of unemployment.

SNAP is available to families and individuals based on their resources, income level and size of their household. To qualify, individuals have to have gross income of less than $1,245 a month; for a family of four, the maximum allowable gross income is $2,552 a month. As of last November, average benefits in the 50 states ranged from a low of $214 a month in Minnesota to a high of $445 a month in Hawaii, according to the CBPP report.

Benefit levels were increased in 2009 under the Recovery Act, part of the government's stimulus program after the Great Recession.

"SNAP is a very good way of delivering economic stimulus because low-income people spend rather than save," said Rosenbaum. "That's what makes the program a good bang for the buck stimulus."

Now, as benefit levels revert to lower levels and fewer families qualify, the impact on the federal budget is easing. Overall SNAP spending roughly doubled from 2007 through last year, peaking at 0.5 percent of gross domestic product. That level is expected to keep falling as the economic recovery continues.

The drop in participation is widespread; some 47 states have seen cuts in their SNAP rolls, which peaked nationally at nearly 48 million. But participation levels vary widely based on average state income levels.

In Wyoming, where roughly 2 percent of household incomes are below the poverty line, roughly 6 percent of the population is in the SNAP program. Roughly 1 in 5 people participate in SNAP in Mississippi, the state with the highest poverty rate.

More from CNBC

May 30, 2014 1:17PM
Good - Now lets fix the program.

Food Stamps are one of the most abused and wasteful social program this country has ever developed. A family of four receives more money monthly then my family of five spends a month on food. The amount paid out each month should be cut by at least one third. Purchases by food stamps should be (if not already) restricted to the following: Fresh/frozen non prepared meats & fish, fresh/frozen non prepared vegetables, deli meats/cheeses, canned goods, breads, non sweetened dairy, and non sweetened juices. The following should always be banned, and processes need to be in place where not already, to restrict: Soda, bottled water, power and energy drinks, sweetened juices, coffee, tea, ice cream, candy, energy bars, any pre-prepared meals or sandwiches, snacks/junk food, or any food that is mail ordered or shipped anywhere. If these rules would be followed, and recipients would learn how to shop and properly eat, no one would be hungry and we the taxpayers would save billions.

            Tobacco and alcohol should be banned from purchase by welfare funds. No cash should be allowed to be pulled off of any assistance cards except at banks and should be limited to a very low percentage of funds.

May 30, 2014 1:36PM

Nowhere in this story do they say how dramatic the drop was, or how many people are currently on food stamps.  Just what the peak was.


More MSN spin for the Great Obama spin machine.  We should just call this the Maytag administration because it is stuck on Spin Cycle.

May 30, 2014 1:00PM
Right, sure. And we should trust even one thing this Administration says?
May 30, 2014 12:23PM
When are we going to ensure that the only thing that is able to be purchased with a EBT card is in the first ladies approved nutritional guidelines?
May 30, 2014 1:54PM
What they don't say is that they cut the food stamp benefits a lot of people were getting. They also reduced the amount of people eligible for food stamps. Unfortunately they people they cut were mostly people that actually worked part time or lost hours or their job and had to take what was available, making substantially less. The people that were unaffected were the lifetime abusers and those that didn't work at all. 
May 30, 2014 6:43PM
Wow. The media is slapping a ton of gold paint on a ton of bullsh*t today.
A lot of stores and store chains have stopped accepting and/or cut back food stamp programs. As well, there are also a lot of people who have lost food stamp benefits. It has VERY LITTLE to do with improvement in household finances. 
Put as much gold paint on bullsh*t as you want, media puppets. It's still bullsh*t.
May 30, 2014 1:43PM
Was this drop a result of the harsh winter too?
May 30, 2014 12:51PM

Must of been lots killed in Chicago and other foostamper rat cities.

Or since they are too dumb and lazy to even buy their own food without ebt, maybe we need to bottle and spoon feeds the rats also.

Jun 2, 2014 11:30AM

The article doesn't mention how much food stamp use has declined because it hasn't.


Also, I know 5 (five) people in my state that intentionally signed up for food stamps that made over $45,000 per year just to prove how easy it was to get the stamps and prove that very few, if any people are checked out. The program is advertised nationally as a "come and get it" liberal program sought after by the Obama administration that has worked well for the "do nothings" at the usual expense of the honest tax payers. Surfer Dude in California is the poster child for this out of control, miserably run federal program, but he is only one of millions scamming the system and real Americans.


By the way, all 5 citizens went back to the food stamp people and confessed what they had done, and they found out that there wasn't a way to repay the state for their "test". All 5 have put their money with interest in an escrow account waiting for the state to figure out what to do. Imagine, the state apparently never thought anyone would scam the system!!!

Jun 2, 2014 5:08PM
Hey Benghazi Bob !!!
How bad did it suck when you lost that ABS account ?!?!
Har Har !!
Jun 8, 2014 9:45PM
AFter the Food Stamp Extension fell off the end of the fiscal cliff with the end of the Obama USDA farm bill extension in January 2014, the income limit for stamps here went from $1350 to $1150 for 1 person with most people near the limit getting $10 a month in food stamp assistance. One must refile for benefits every 3 months costing more in bank statement copy fees and photo copy fees than recipient would get in 3 months..............A lot of people suffered through January and following months as food banks were running low on supplies too due to increased demand.

Face it, Social Services (charity, state & mental health) is considered a field employing people to hand out rations & conduct interventions...Dirty secret -- many times the employees are getting paid more than the department/charity has to hand out,making handouts just a sideline to employing a group of people......The director wages/benefits amounts are presented misleadingly as well with gifts/bonuses coming from other sources. Additionally, the social worker staffers are frequently making more money annually than the director but this is buried in the small print.......

Discrimination in services offered is common in some cities, with unfavored persons given incorrect information on available assistance & run around between multiple charities. Scary but some of the emergency response charities getting the biggest amounts of government funding do not assist everyone who walks in the door..........sometimes the guidelines regarding who qualifies for assistance are grey and subjective.
Jun 2, 2014 5:35PM
Obammy-whammy-doodle-deedle-ding-dang . . .  promised that the US would continue burning coal for energy production until there wasn't anymore coal to burn !!

You fibbed, you poopy-head !!
Jun 2, 2014 5:26PM
Jun 2, 2014 5:07PM
Benghazi Bob Hillary = Alias Barry Sotoro

yuk yuk
Jun 2, 2014 5:41PM
May 30, 2014 1:44PM
Where is Benghazi Bob Hillary when we need him? Mississippi? Louisiana? Alabama? Texas and Arkansas? In case you folks don't know your food stamps were cut back by the Republicans. Fifty billion over the next ten years. 2.3 trillion dollar budget and we cut food stamps five billion a year?  Hopefully, Ted Cruz runs for president with Governor Perry his running mate and those states will get back their food stamp allocation. Oh!! Sadly it's not the adults who abuse the system that is the problem, it's the kids who pay for their parents abuse.
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