Participation in the food stamp program took a dive to the lowest level it has been in seven years, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
USDA statistics on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation showed that 42,609,852 people in the U.S. took part in the food stamp program in fiscal year (FY) 2017, the lowest level it has been since 2010 when 40,302,000 people enrolled in the program.
Food stamp usage has been on a steady decline after 2013, when enrollment in the government program swelled to 47.6 million, the highest amount it has ever been since the program’s inception.
The increase in the number people receiving food stamps during that period can be attributed to the Obama administration’s effort to allow those with higher incomes to receive benefits. Enrollment in benefits increased by 70 percent from the year former President Barack Obama took office in 2008 to 2013.
Starting in 2014, the number of people on food stamps started to decline slowly. The decline in enrollment began as a combination of the Obama administration’s slight cuts to the food stamp program in the 2014 Farm Bill and state efforts to curb prolonged food stamp dependency.
Obama signed an $8.7 billion food stamp cut into law as a way to placate House Republicans in early 2014 after they pushed for deeper cuts to the program throughout 2013.
Individual states such as Maine also began the process of implementing or reinstating work requirements to participate in the food stamp program that many states delayed putting in place because of the recession.
The cuts to the program, along with state efforts to curb food stamp enrollment, caused a domino effect. In 2014, 46.6 million Americans received food stamps, 45.8 million received benefits in 2015, and 44.2 million enrolled in the program as of 2016.
Although Maine led the way in implementing work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents who wish to receive food stamps, a lot of other states did not catch on until 2016-2017.
Georgia made headlines when thousands dropped off the state’s food stamp rolls after the state gradually rolled out food stamp work requirements starting in 2016. Other states such as Alabama soon followed, and more states are starting to find ways to decrease food stamp enrollment and increase employment.
At the federal level, lawmakers are working on legislation to take food stamp work requirements nationwide and reinstate time limits on how long recipients can receive benefits.