Congress created changes to food assistance. Here's what they mean (2023)

Jaqueline Benitez pushes her cart down an aisle as she shops for groceries at a supermarket in Bellflower, Calif., on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023. Benitez, 21, who works as a preschool teacher, depends on California's SNAP benefits to help pay for food. Allison Dinner/AP hide caption

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Congress created changes to food assistance. Here's what they mean (2)

Jaqueline Benitez pushes her cart down an aisle as she shops for groceries at a supermarket in Bellflower, Calif., on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023. Benitez, 21, who works as a preschool teacher, depends on California's SNAP benefits to help pay for food.

Allison Dinner/AP

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Congress created some of the most significant revisions to the food stamp program in decades during an effort to prevent the country from defaulting on its loans Thursday night. Hunger advocates and lawmakers are still parsing through what these changes will mean for the nation's most vulnerable.

When the agreement details were made public, advocates on both sides say they were blindsided. Progressives hoped the Biden administration would fend off any attempts to increase work requirements for food stamps recipients. Republicans were looking for a policy geared at moving even more people off the program and into the workforce.

After weeks of negotiations, White House and Republican negotiators settled on a mixed bag when it came to food assistance: a change to the longtime program that would enact new work requirements for those ages 50 to 54 but would spare people from work requirements if they meet one of the following categories:

  • those experiencing homelessness of all ages
  • veterans of all ages
  • youth ages 18 to 24 who aged out of foster care

All of the changes are set to end in 2030.


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"If the goal is to minimize the impact of work requirements, it was a good response to the call for expanding the age range to trade that off by exempting some of the most vulnerable groups," said Katherine Hempstead, a senior policy adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation who focuses on health care issues. "If at the end of the day, it's sort of a wash or maybe even an increase, that's a sort of damage minimization people could feel pretty happy about."

In the end, Democrats joined Republicans in both chambers to pass the bill. But some Democrats, like Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, who chairs the subcommittee on nutrition, didn't support the full proposal.

"I did not agree to these SNAP restrictions, and I won't give Republicans an opening to try and take food from more food insecure Americans in Farm Bill negotiations later this year," Fetterman said in a statement after the Senate passed the bill. "That is why I voted no tonight."

Meanwhile, Republican senators attempted to introduce amendments to increase the work requirements proposed or make them permanent.

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After the House passed the measure on Wednesday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy vowed to get "more work requirements."

The changes may end up costing the government more money than they save

Republicans had the goal of reducing the number of recipients and cutting spending, but a Congressional Budget Office analysis released earlier this week found the measure may do the opposite.

The CBO analysis found the changes would slightly increase the number of people in the program by .2% (or 78,000 people) due to the new exemptions.

The findings also revealed something else unexpected: The changes to food stamps would actually increase federal spending by about $2.1 billion over the 2023 to 2033 period. That's because even with expanded work requirements for people ages 50-54, veterans and those experiencing homelessness are still exempt.


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The current work requirements limit able-bodied adults without dependents ages 18-50 to three months of SNAP benefits during any 36-month period when they cannot show they are employed or in a work or training program for at least 20 hours a week.

Republicans lobbying for the package quickly slammed the CBO for an allegedly "incorrect score."

"Quite frankly CBO has their numbers wrong. They double-counted individuals," said House Agriculture Chairman G.T. Thompson during a call with reporters this week.

Advocates worry expanded work requirements could harm older Americans

The change to the age requirements for food assistance could affect about 750,000 adults, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates.

Food and hunger groups have criticized the proposal since House Speaker Kevin McCarthy first unveiled it, saying it would force older Americans, who may be more likely to struggle to find a job, into a position where they could lose their benefits.


Adding work requirements for food stamps doesn't have desired effect, researchers say

Adding work requirements for food stamps doesn't have desired effect, researchers say

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    Congress created changes to food assistance. Here's what they mean (5)


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Rep. Thompson argues that enacting work requirements on this age group would improve their employment chances. He says they would have access to education and career training benefits that are provided to SNAP recipients.

"We give people an opportunity to reach a rung on the ladder of opportunity," he says, referring to the training programs as a part of SNAP, which he thinks will help older Americans improve their chances of finding a job.

"The older you get, for a number of unfortunate reasons, when you lose your job, the harder it is to get a new job at that point in your lifetime. I don't think that's right," Thompson said.

Republican negotiators and food security advocates find some common ground with expansions

The new exemptions from work requirements have found a broad range of support.

GOP negotiator Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina called these "sensible changes and updates to the law."

Rep. Erin Houchin, R-Ind., told reporters she is particularly supportive of the changes for 18- to 24-year-olds who have aged out of foster care.

"We are failing many of these kids," Houchin said. "Including a provision in this bill to provide support to them as they move into adulthood is the least we can do."


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White House negotiators said they expect the number of people on work requirements to stay about the same because of the trade-off between age increases and exemptions.

Liza Lieberman, vice president of communications at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, is excited to see the changes made for veterans, but she warns that the expiration of the policy in 2030 could bring a sharp drop in benefits or other unwelcome changes.

"More people getting food assistance is a good thing," Lieberman said. "But it feels like it's illustrating the arbitrary nature of the time limits because it is playing a numbers game."

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Lieberman, like some advocates and lawmakers, also would have preferred the debate over SNAP work requirements to play out during negotiations for the farm bill later this year or during other talks not tied to the debt limit.

"It's not necessarily even about the deal, it's the fact that we're even having this conversation in the context of debt ceiling negotiations," Lieberman said. "Where it just doesn't belong."


Which food assistance program was the first initiated by Congress? ›

SNAP was preceded by the original Food Stamp Program of 1939 and the pilot programs of the early 1960s. The 1939 program was initiated to align growing food surpluses with a concern for the needs of the poor as the country emerged from the Great Depression.

What is the highest income to qualify for SNAP? ›

Your net income is your gross income minus any allowable deductions. And assets are "countable resources" like cash, money in a bank account, and certain vehicles. For fiscal year 2023 (Oct. 1, 2022 – Sept. 30, 2023), a two-member household with a net monthly income of $1,526 (100% of poverty) might qualify for SNAP.

What is it called when the government gives you money for food? ›

CalFresh, known federally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, provides monthly food benefits to individuals and families with low-income and provides economic benefits to communities.

What is in the new debt ceiling bill? ›

Some $886 billion will be spent on defense, according to the bill text. The debt ceiling bill that House Republicans passed in April would have returned discretionary spending to fiscal 2022 levels and then limited the growth in spending to 1% for a decade. Defense spending would have been protected.

When was the Food Security Act passed by Congress? ›

On July 20, 2016, the Global Food Security Act of 2016 was signed into law with strong bipartisan support, representing a landmark moment for the United States in recognizing the critical role of food security in development and national security.

What are the primary food assistance programs established in the United States during the 1960s? ›

The Food Stamp Program is Revived in the 60s. In 1961, the Congress enacted a pilot program designed to help both poor people and farmers – the Food Stamp Program. The program was actually a revival of an idea that had been tried during the Great Depression.

How much is welfare per month in California? ›

Maximum Aid Payment (MAP) Levels
Eligible personsNon-exempt MAPExempt MAP
7 more rows

What is the income limit? ›

Income Limits means limits on income set by HUD used as one of determining eligibility factors for Federal and State housing assistance programs.

How much food stamps will I get for 1 person in California? ›

Your CalFresh allotment depends on the size of your household. Starting October 1, 2022, the maximum allotment for one person is $281 per month. The maximum allotment for a four person family is $939.

How to get free cash? ›

Now that you know that these and other opportunities to earn free money are out there, it's time to find out where to look.
  1. Get Bank Rewards or Stock Bonuses. ...
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Apr 3, 2023

What are the 5 foods that the government still subsidizes? ›

Currently, five commodity crops are particularly heavily subsidized by the US government—corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and rice. Other programs exist for sugar and dairy farmers.

What is it called when you can't afford food? ›

The USDA defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life. This can be a temporary situation for a family or can last a long time. Food insecurity is one way we measure how many people can't afford food.

What senators voted against the debt bill? ›

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.)

Has Biden signed the debt ceiling? ›

Biden signed H.R. 3746, the “Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023,” two days before Monday's default deadline, on which the U.S. would run out of cash to pay its bills. President Joe Biden on Saturday signed the debt ceiling bill, a capstone to months of negotiations that pushed the U.S. to the brink of default.

Which senators voted against debt ceiling? ›

36 senators oppose debt ceiling legislation
  • Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming.
  • Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.
  • Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana.
  • Sen. Katie Britt of Alabama.
  • Sen. Ted Budd of North Carolina.
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.
  • Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
  • Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho.
Jun 2, 2023

Is Food Security Act still in effect? ›

The Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2022 (H.R. 8446) builds upon the landmark Global Food Security Act of 2018. It reauthorizes the successful Feed the Future initiative, which since 2010 has been making progress and building on U.S. commitment to achieving global food and nutrition security.

What is the Food Security Act? ›

The Food Security Act of 1985 allowed lower commodity prices and income supports. It also established a dairy herd buyout program. The Act made changes to a variety of other USDA programs.

What president passed the Pure food Act? ›

Scientific experiments on food using human guinea pigs eventually resulted in the signing of the Pure Food & Drug Act in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.

What are 3 food assistance programs to increase food security in the US? ›

Federal Food Assistance Programs
AcronymFull Name
SNAPSupplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
TEFAPThe Emergency Food Assistance Program
CSFPThe Commodity Supplemental Food Program
CACFPThe Child and Adult Care Food Program
4 more rows

What is the largest federal food assistance program in the United States? ›

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the Nation's largest domestic food and nutrition assistance program for low-income Americans.

Who gets food stamps in the US? ›

Net income, or household income after deductions are applied, must be at or below the poverty line. Assets must fall below certain limits: households without a member aged 60 or older or who has a disability must have assets of $2,750 or less, and households with such a member must have assets of $4,250 or less.

What was the first federal social welfare agency to aid the poor? ›

The first federal social welfare program, referred to as the Freedmen's Bureau, began in 1865 as a means to help newly emancipated slaves.

What was previously known as the Food Stamp Program the new name? ›

In 2008, Congress passed the Farm Bill (Public Law 110-246), which included a provision that renamed the Food Stamp Program the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” (also known as SNAP). California, like many other states, chose to explore other naming options.

When did Tefap start? ›

To add structure and provide administrative funds for the distribution program, Congress passed The Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) Act in May 1983 (Public Law 98-8). Later that same year, Congress revised and extended the program through September 1985.

Was the Food Stamp Act of 1964 successful? ›

This action and others, such as the establishment of the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (a program celebrating 40 years this year), resulted in marked improvement in the diets of the poor during the late 1960 and into the mid 1970s.

What are the two largest federal social welfare programs? ›

Some of the major federal, state, and local social welfare programs are: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

When did the government start helping the poor? ›

Although President Franklin D. Roosevelt focused mainly on creating jobs for the masses of unemployed workers, he also backed the idea of federal aid for poor children and other dependent persons. By 1935, a national welfare system had been established for the first time in American history.

What was the first social welfare program in the world? ›

The first welfare state was Imperial Germany (1871–1918), where the Bismarck government introduced social security in 1889.

Why did the Food Stamp Program resume in 1961? ›

Food Stamps Revived Under JFK, Expanded Under Nixon

President John F. Kennedy, who had been struck by the poverty he had witnessed in West Virginia during the 1960 Democratic primary campaign, revived food stamps as a pilot program as one of his first actions upon taking office in 1961.

Did the New Deal create food stamps? ›

The initiative, called the “Food Stamps Plan,” was implemented in 1939 under the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a key component of the New Deal program.

Why did the number of Americans receiving food stamps rise after 2008? ›

In the midst of the stock market crash of 2008 and the housing crisis, most Americans: cut back on spending, leading to business failures and a rapid rise in unemployment. Why did the number of Americans receiving food stamps rise after 2008? The number of needy Americans skyrocketed with the recession.

When did food for peace start? ›

On July 10, 1954, President Eisenhower signed into law the legislation that would eventually become known as the Food for Peace Act.

When did food sovereignty start? ›

Food sovereignty is a term coined by La Via Campesina, a global movement of over 200 million small-scale farmers, peasants, farmworkers, and other food producers in over 70 countries, at the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome, Italy.

When did food lobbying start? ›

They were organized after the Civil War in 1867 to improve the economic and social position of farmers. In the late 1800s, several farm groups formed a loose movement known as the Populists, and their candidates sporadically held local and statewide political offices for the next few decades.

Which American president introduced the Food Stamp Act? ›

President Johnson signing the Food Stamp Act of 1964.

How much did the US spend on food stamps? ›

SNAP spending doubled from $63 billion in 2019 to $127 billion in 2023. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that spending will dip as pandemic benefits expire but will remain far above the 2019 level, as shown in the chart.

What is the Food Stamp Act of 1965? ›

The Food Stamp Act authorizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is the largest program in the U.S. domestic hunger safety net. SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities.


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