Panel Paper: The Effects of Proposed Changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) On SNAP Eligibility, Participation, and Benefits

Saturday, November 9, 2013 : 3:30 PM
West End Ballroom D (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Joshua Leftin, Allison Dodd, Kai Filion, Rebecca Wang, Andrew Gothro and Karen Cunnyngham, Mathematica Policy Research
Congress has begun deliberations to reauthorize the U.S. Farm Bill, which governs federal agriculture and nutrition policies and programs, including SNAP. A primary concern in the current reauthorization debate is the escalating trend in federal spending on SNAP. SNAP eligibility and benefit determination policies have come under particular scrutiny. Proposals in both the House and Senate contain policy changes intended to reduce federal spending. A large share of the downward adjustment would result from proposed revisions to rules regarding (1) when receipt of Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) benefits could confer use of the SNAP Heating and Cooling Standard Utility Allowance (HCSUA) and (2) categorical eligibility for SNAP conferred through non-cash TANF-funded programs.

Mathematica Policy Research used two microsimulation models developed for and frequently used by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to estimate the effects of the proposed changes on people who are eligible for SNAP and participating in SNAP. The first model is based on a sample of FY 2011 SNAP administrative data and simulates SNAP participation. The second model is based on 2009 data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and incorporates data from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC); this model simulates both SNAP eligibility and participation.

We find the vast majority of participants would not face eligibility or benefit changes under the potential LIHEAP policy change. A simulated 1.1 percent of participating individuals and 1.5 percent of participating households would receive lower SNAP benefits but would continue to participate in the program. In addition, a small fraction (less than 0.1 percent) would receive lower benefits and choose not to participate. The simulation reduced total SNAP benefits by less than 0.5 percent.

Simulating both the LIHEAP and non-cash categorical eligibility policy changes, we estimate that 13.3 percent of participating households and 11.8 percent of participating individuals would lose eligibility, 1.4 percent of households and 1.1 percent of individuals would still participate but face a reduction in benefits, and a small proportion (0.2 percent of households and 0.1 percent of individuals) would remain eligible but would no longer participate. These estimates contributed to the health impact assessment described in the third paper of this panel.