The SNAP Snapback: A Sign of Spring or Something More?
This week, something rare and exceptional happened in Washington, D.C.
A “temporary” government measure actually came to an end.
On Wednesday, March 1, the temporary increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—put in place as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic—ended, returning the food stamp program to its normal benefit levels.
Of course, 18 states had previously chosen to opt out of this emergency allotment (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming), so the March 1 change doesn’t affect all recipients. Food stamps are still available for eligible recipients at the pre-COVID-19 amounts set by law.
Nearly six months ago, President Biden told a national TV audience that the pandemic was over. But that didn’t slow down many pandemic-era government programs, like expanded welfare, Medicaid handcuffs, and expanded food stamp benefits in 32 other states. Those programs continued despite the president’s statement and the administration’s promise to end the federal emergency declaration this coming May.
The “temporary” food stamp benefit has had a very real three-year cost.
The month before COVID-19 hit, February 2020, the federal government spent about $4.5 billion on food stamps. Just one year later, the monthly cost more than doubled to $9.1 billion, and it kept on rising to nearly $11 billion at the latest count—a nearly 150 percent increase in monthly spending.
That government spending not only increased the burden on taxpayers who were struggling themselves, but it helped keep workers out of America’s workforce, at a time when our economy should have been well on the way to full recovery.
Of course, this is hardly the finish line. Nobody should be celebrating the end of a spending item that was always supposed to be temporary. But that’s what counts as spending restraint for this administration. For serious policymakers, there is plenty more to do to reform the food stamp program and get Americans back to work.