The post-COVID-19 economy is a strange beast. Unemployment rates are at historic lows, but inflation—despite some cooling—remains high. Many parents continue to struggle with child care and their children’s schooling, and key income supports enacted in response to the pandemic are expiring. The prospect of recession looms as policymakers debate issues of public spending, debt, and rising interest rates.

Amid this economic uncertainty, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is a lifeline for millions of families. As negotiations about the budget and the debt ceiling continue to unfold, legislators are currently debating proposals to scale back SNAP benefits and impose stricter work requirements that will make food assistance more difficult to access.

Threats to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program must reconcile with the research on the program’s impressive record of results. SNAP benefits lift millions of families with children out of poverty every year. Moreover, researchers have demonstrated again and again using the most rigorous causal methods that SNAP benefits reduce “food insecurity,” or the inability to meet routine food expenses, while stimulating economic growth. Recent research estimates that every $1 in additional SNAP spending can increase the GDP by $1.54 during economic slowdowns.

These short-term benefits are striking on their own, but the reach of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program into families’ and children’s well-being extends much farther.

Because household resources during childhood have profound, causal, and long-term impacts on children, researchers find that SNAP benefits increase children’s education in adulthood, reduce the likelihood of becoming incarcerated, improve health, and even lead to longer lifespans. Mothers and young children who participate in the program wind up healthier during a crucial period of development. And when families’ food costs are supported by SNAP benefits, they’re able to reallocate their spending to other purposes that might benefit their children. These benefits redound to their children well into adulthood.

Read the full article about SNAP benefits by Christopher Wimer, Zachary Parolin, Ronald Mincy and Benjamin Glasner at Equitable Growth.