Poster Paper: Unemployed, Working Age Adults: When UI Benefits Ends, Do SNAP Benefits Continue?

Thursday, November 7, 2013
West End Ballroom A (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Eunhee Han, University of Wisconsin, Madison and Jennifer Noyes, Institute for Research on Poverty
Using a unique, merged administrative data set, we address the extent to which Unemployment Insurance (UI) beneficiaries 1) concurrently receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and 2) continue to receive SNAP benefits when their UI benefits expire, both before and after the recession that began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.

            SNAP is a key component of the United States’ safety net and is currently considered to be, along with UI, one of the most responsive federal programs to the economic cycle along.  In the past, SNAP was often considered an adjunct program to the for the non-working poor; it has, however, transformed itself into an important source of support for the working poor as well as the unemployed with work history over the last decade.  For example, although following welfare reform able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDS) who do not work can receive SNAP only for three months in a three-year period, this three-month time limit and the work requirement are typically waived during an economic recession. As a result, the UI claimants whose UI benefits are low or expired and who have inadequate income sources are often eligible for SNAP; SNAP becomes important particularly to the people who have been unable to find a new job as their extended benefits expire. However, the dynamics in participating in SNAP and UI and factors associated with stability in participating in SNAP have been understudied due to underreporting in SNAP and other program participation in the national survey data sets like SIPP.

We are able to address this question using longitudinal data from a comprehensive merged administrative research data system in Wisconsin that includes records for the entire state population across SNAP, UI benefits, and other government programs and earnings from 2007 through 2011. We follow working-age adults receiving SNAP and UI benefits concurrently in 2007 through 2009 for  36 months to assess the extent to which these individuals: 1) “move-up” (i.e.,  have recorded earnings  that exceed the poverty line and, subsequently, do not receive SNAP or UI),  2) “maintain,” (i.e., continue to receive only SNAP following exit from UI);  and 3) “disconnect”  (i.e., have no or limited recorded earnings and do not receive SNAP or UI).   We also examine factors related to the three different types of exit.  Preliminary results suggest that childless adults and single fathers are more likely to be disconnected from SNAP when their UI benefits are exhausted.  This finding could have implications for policy and practice, given the critical role of SNAP has assumed in the nation’s safety net.