Strengthening SNAP as an automatic stabilizer

A pre-school age girl helps her dad pick out veggies in the produce section at the grocery store. He is holding her next to the produce and she is picking out eggplant.

The Problem

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a universal program with eligibility criteria based on household income, allowing it to expand automatically when the economy contracts and vice versa. Unfortunately, this stabilization feature is often limited by work requirements for SNAP eligibility, which restrict benefits for some workers who lose their jobs or otherwise experience labor market volatility during recessions.

The Proposal

Hilary Hoynes and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach present two reforms to strengthen SNAP as an automatic stabilizer. First, they recommend either limiting SNAP work requirements—by automatically removing work requirements during downturns—or eliminating work requirements altogether. Second, they propose an automatic 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits during recessions.