NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 12, 2005

Nearly a decade after welfare reform, some states are placing a new emphasis on food stamps as a program to improve the nutrition of the working poor. But their efforts to sign up more families have put them on a collision course with Congress and the Bush administration's push to cut the deficit, says the Wall Street Journal.

States, concerned that welfare reform pushed many low-income residents off other assistance programs, have been working to broaden the reach of food stamps. On average, 25.5 million Americans received food stamps last year, up from 17.2 million in 2000.

The food stamp program, the federal government's biggest nutrition assistance program, covers the cost for food purchases and splits administrative costs with the states. The federal government's food stamp tab rose to $27 billion in 2004 from $17.1 billion in 2000, an increase making the program a ripe target for budget cutters, says the Journal.

  • The five-year, $50 billion deficit reduction bill that passed the House last month would cut spending on food stamps by $700 million; the Senate bill did not include such a cut.
  • The House bill cuts spending mainly by changing some eligibility requirements, such as the gross income cap; it would also take away some flexibility states have used to boost enrollment.
  • The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin would be hit hardest by the changes in eligibility.

Overall, some 150,000 people might become ineligible, in addition to 70,000 legal immigrants who would become ineligible under a provision that increases their residency requirement to seven years from five years.

The Journal says it is uncertain whether the provision will remain after House and Senate conferees work out differences in the two bills.

Source: Jane Zhang, "States' Food-Stamp Fight Intensifies," Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2005.

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