Attitudes toward the food stamp program – and the likelihood of knowing someone receiving food subsidies – vary be wealth. Learn more.
About one in seven Americans now receives food subsidies through SNAP, a Department of Agriculture program popularly known as food stamps. A record 46,434,141 Americans participated in SNAP in July 2012, the most recent month reported by the USDA. Do you know anyone receiving food stamps?
Enrollment in SNAP, an economic indicator, rose steadily with unemployment during the recession and has remained elevated throughout the prolonged recovery. Need may remain high, but the future of SNAP depends on the fate of a controversial farm bill caught up in gridlock in Congress.
Legislators failed to pass new legislation before adjourning in September, allowing the 2008 Farm Bill to expire on October 1. Analysts expect a post-election Congress to extend the old bill through the spring, if they fail to resolve disputes over funding the new bill, Reuters reports, but the roughly $72 billion SNAP program faces likely cuts in the face of the Fiscal Cliff.
If you count among the 36.7 million Americans who have $100,000 or more in investable assets, chances are you don’t know anyone receiving SNAP benefits. The latest monthly survey from Millionaire Corner shows that as wealth increases, the share of individuals who say they know someone on food stamps goes down. About 17 percent of individuals with a net worth of $1 million or more, not including primary residence, knows someone receiving SNAP benefits.
You can probably guess the results for our next question, “Do you think the food stamp system is vulnerable to abuse?” Again, wealthier investors – including 90 percent of Millionaires – are more likely than the less affluent to perceive the SNAP program as easily abused, according to our October survey.
To what extent is the program abused? The largest share of Millionaires, 43 percent, indicated that 10 percent to 25 percent of people receiving food stamps are abusing the system. About 30 percent believe SNAP is abused by 26 percent to 50 percent of recipients. That would be up to 23 million Americans.
The USDA reports that roughly 3 percent of benefits are abused and states that 98 percent of the people who receive SNAP qualify for benefits. To be eligible a household must have assets of less than $2,000 and a gross monthly income below 130 percent of federal poverty guidelines. According to the USDA, that’s currently $2,422 for a family of four. An illegal activity known as trafficking, the sale of SNAP benefits for cash, is an abuse of 1 percent of program benefits, down from 4 percent 15 years ago, according to the USDA.
In August the agency unveiled “new aggressive tactics” to combat fraud in the SNAP program, including additional steps to prevent ineligible people participating in the program and stepped-up prosecution of stores trafficking SNAP benefits or falsifying applications.