SNAP Benefits Would Decrease Substantially Under House Farm Bill for Some Households Receiving Energy Assistance

Benefits Would Increase Modestly for Working Households

November 15, 2018—Between 800,000 and 1.1 million households receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in 2017 would experience a $50 to $75 cut in their monthly benefit under certain provisions of the House Farm Bill (H.R.2, The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018), according to a microsimulation conducted by Mathematica Policy Research. While the provisions would reduce benefits substantially for 3% to 5% of SNAP households, they would also increase benefits by a modest amount, an average of $10, for about 20 percent of SNAP households—approximately four million households.

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Proposed Changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Heating and Cooling Standard Utility Allowances and Earned Income

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Fast Facts

1.1M

As many as 1.1 million households would experience a $50 to $75 cut in their monthly SNAP benefits under certain provisions of the House Farm Bill.

$10

SNAP benefits would increase by an average of $10 per month for about 20% of SNAP households, approximately 4 million, under these provisions in the bill. 

84%

Up to 84% of the households that would experience reduced benefits under these provisions of the House Farm Bill, as many as 900,000 households, include children.

These findings are part of an analysis, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, that estimates the effects of changing how public agencies take into account housing expenses and earnings when calculating SNAP benefits. Specifically, the model examined changes to:

Heating and cooling standard utility allowance requirements. Under current law, SNAP households with high housing expenses relative to their income are entitled to an income deduction based, in part, on rent (or mortgage) and utilities costs. States may use a standard utility allowance (SUA) to streamline the process, including the highest SUA—the heating and cooling SUA (HCSUA)—to calculate a household’s deduction if the household receives energy assistance, even if the household does not have heating and cooling utility costs. H.R. 2 continues to permit this practice for households that include a senior or a person with a disability, but not for other households.

Earnings deductions. Under current law, working households may deduct a portion of their earnings from their income to receive a higher SNAP benefit. H.R. 2 would increase the earnings deduction from 20 percent of earned income to 22 percent.

“SNAP has a long and successful history of providing temporary help to reduce food insecurity, lift people out of poverty, help families achieve self-sufficiency and reduce health disparities. Any reforms to SNAP should be driven by analysis of impacts on access, equity, cost and program outcomes including food security, financial security and diet quality.”

Giridhar Mallya, senior program officer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

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