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The president’s proposed budget includes massive cuts to the social safety net, raising questions and concerns about what might happen to families in need. Among the cuts includes a decrease of about $191 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) over the next 10 years. It requires states to ultimately pay 25 percent of SNAP benefits, which are currently covered by the federal government, and gives states the flexibility to reduce benefit levels.
Requiring states to cover a larger share of safety net programs is a key part of the budget reductions. When the federal share of spending shrinks, state funding must increase if states are to continue meeting the level of need in their state.
When states are required to provide more funding, and are given the option to lower benefit levels, they have an incentive to serve fewer people and exercise more control over those they serve. Lessons from TANF have shown that families in poverty face unequal experiences with the safety net depending on where they live and that these differences are exacerbated for racial and ethnic minorities. The changes in TANF over the past 20 years offer a stark picture of what may happen to families in need if other safety net programs follow in TANF’s steps.