More than 11 million Americans with disabilities receive help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps, according to a report released June 14 by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank that examines government policies on poverty and inequity.
The report, relying on data from SNAP and disability studies, concluded that snap is an important force in improving the lives of those living with disabilities.
While a single definition of disability can be difficult to determine, it is estimated that disabilities affect between 40 and 57 million Americans. The study suggests that members of the disabled community are more likely to suffer from poverty and hunger, relative to the general population.
The report was released on the heels of a 2018 budget proposal by President Donald Trump that would cut SNAP funding by $193 billion over the course of a decade. This threatens to push more people into homelessness, said Eric Tars, senior attorney for the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.
Trump’s proposed budget would cut over 25 percent of SNAP’s current funding. That amount of funding would feed 10 million participants.
Tars said the choice often becomes food or housing, and SNAP helps eliminate that binary.
“Once somebody loses their housing it becomes so much harder to get back into it,” he said. “The easiest thing to do is prevent homelessness by making sure that people have access to adequate affordable housing, adequate health care, adequate food.”
These vital pieces of life’s puzzle are considered rights in most of the developed world, Tars said, but the U.S. government has come to view such things as privileges. The senior attorney identified the free market as an important part of the problem.
“The free market says that there are going to be winners and losers,” Tars said. “When people are losers in terms of housing or in terms of health care or in terms of food, that means people are dying, people are out on the streets, people are very vulnerable.”
The report suggests that the potential consequences of a diminished SNAP program would prove far more severe for participants with disabilities.
The study reported that 30 percent of disabled adults aged 18 to 59 years live in poverty, compared to 11 percent of non-disabled adults in the same age group.
Disability often means loss of income. The average person who experiences the onset of a severe or chronic disability loses 76 percent of their income after 10 years, according to the study.
The study further reveals that those with disabilities see decreases in assets and family income, and more often face food insecurity.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that SNAP is the most important weapon against hunger in the U.S., and is especially important for the disabled community.
Because there is no strict definition of what constitutes a disability, some people with impairments are denied disability compensation. In such situations, SNAP provides an important source of support.
The SNAP mission is not limited to simply helping people improve their own lives by moving out of poverty, but includes a pathway by which people can better participate in society.
“Every dollar invested in SNAP is a dollar that comes back directly to the community, to local food stores and businesses,” Tars said. “It’s a benefit that has broader economic benefits beyond just making sure that people have adequate food.”
More information on the SNAP program can be found at thisissnap.org.