CBO: Food stamp participation rate to peak in 2013

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A new “snapshot” of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program released Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office reiterated that participation in SNAP, or the food stamp program, will begin to decline in the coming years.

“The number of people receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) has risen sharply in recent years — from about 26 million in 2007 to nearly 47 million in 2012,” CBO analyst Kathleen FitzGerald wrote. “Total spending on SNAP has also grown significantly — from $35 billion in 2007 to $80 billion in 2012.”

FitzGerald wrote that the explosion in participation has been “related to the severe recession and slow recovery” and that the participation rate and level of spending on the program increases during periods of economic weakness due to lower incomes.

FitzGerald further pointed to the stimulus as another reason spending on the program has increased. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act increased the maximum food stamp benefit available until November of this year.

The CBO expects that the average monthly participation for 2013 will be 47.7 million people. Participation will decline slightly to 47.6 million people in 2014, then 46.5 million in 2015 and by 2023 will hit 34.3 million — still significantly above the 26 million in 2007.

In 2012, 46.6 million people participated in the program.

“SNAP participation generally declines when the economy improves, though typically with a substantial lag,” FitzGerald wrote. “CBO projects that participation will follow that pattern again in the coming years.”

SNAP participation reached a record high in December with 47,792,056 people participating in the nutrition assistance program.

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