Schmudget Blog

Federal proposal to cut food assistance would increase poverty in Washington State

Posted by taral at Apr 12, 2011 06:15 PM |

While federal lawmakers continue to debate the size and scope of government, proposed cuts will have a real impact on Washington state.

House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s budget plan proposes deep cuts to SNAP (federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or “food stamps”. The proposal calls for reductions of $127 billion over the next 10 years, which would be devastating to low-income families that rely on the program.

In Washington state the program is called Basic Food, and is projected to help more than 1 million households in the coming year.  Participants are families with children, seniors, or people with disabilities. If the cuts were distributed proportionately, Washington state would lose more than $2 billion over 10 years.(1)

The Ryan proposal seeks to achieve savings by capping spending through a block grant to the states. Under a block grant structure, the program would be unable to respond automatically to increased need from increases in poverty and unemployment.

These proposed cuts come at a time when more families in our state are turning to food assistance to make ends meet. Since the start of the recession, food stamp utilization in Washington state has gone up 78 percent. (2)

To further compound the impact on families, our own State Legislature is contemplating a reduction to State Food Assistance, which provides food benefits to legal immigrants. The program is completely eliminated under the Governor’s proposal and the House budget cuts it in half.

Reducing or eliminating food benefits would increase poverty and hunger across the country and here in Washington state. Nationally, more than 44 million people utilize the SNAP program. Of those households, 86 percent are below the federal poverty line ($22,350 for a family of four).   Two of every five SNAP households have incomes below half of the poverty line.


Food assistance is vital to families who are unable to afford necessities like food on a reliable basis. The SNAP program places a crucial role in boosting families’ monthly income: a typical working mother with two children on SNAP earns $1,027 per month ($12,324 on an annual basis), and receives $385 per month in SNAP benefits to feed her family. If the Ryan propsal were implemented, this family’s monthly benefits could be cut by $116 per month—or 30 percent—in fiscal year 2012.(3)

Click here for a full analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.


(1) Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)

(2) Children's Alliance

(3) CBPP

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