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SNAP reductions could cost W.Va. $125 million, study says

By JIM ROSS

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s state government would have to absorb an additional $125 million per year expense if President Donald Trump’s plan to shift some SNAP expenses to the states goes through.

States could respond by decreasing benefits, which would lead to more food insecurity for low-income families.

Those are two conclusions drawn from an analysis of the president’s proposal by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a research institute based in Washington, D.C.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, is fully funded by the federal government, but the Trump administration wants states to assume some of the costs.

Americans who make up to 130 percent of the poverty level, which is a monthly income of $2,600 for a family of four, are eligible for food stamps.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 42.8 million people in 21.1 households receive SNAP benefits. In 2015, the last year for which numbers had been posted, about 17 percent of households in West Virginia received benefits. The participating rate was highest in the state’s 3rd Congressional District, where about 21 percent of households received benefits.

To absorb large new costs, states would need to either cut services and programs on which their residents now depend or generate new in-state revenue, or some combination of the two, according to the CBPP study. The impact would be greater in recessions, when declining state revenues typically force states to cut spending in order to meet their balanced budget requirements, the study said.

Participating in SNAP is optional for states, and in theory nothing would prevent a state from dropping out of SNAP entirely rather than pay a mandated portion of SNAP benefits, the study says.

Cuts in benefits also would undermine SNAP’s role in reducing the length and severity of recessions, the study says.

“When people lack access to food assistance, they spend less at local stores, which threatens jobs at those local stores, puts less money in local economies, and slows the national economy,” the study says.

Along with the cost shift, Trump’s budget proposal includes another $75 billion in SNAP benefit cuts over 10 years, which would end assistance to millions and cut benefits to millions more, targeting the unemployed, low-income working families with children, and the elderly and disabled, the study says.

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