Study by the University of Georgia

  • A study conducted and published in Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy in July 2018, by the Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics, University of Georgia, revealed that some recipients of the monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments may spend their benefits early in the month. It furthers the possibility of food insecurity by the end of the month.
  • In Georgia alone, 14 percent of households struggle to pay for an adequate nutritional diet, according to data. SNAP is the major and largest food support program in the nation. In 2017, more than 1.6 million Georgia residents (16 percent) consumed $2.54 billion in SNAP benefits.

Source

  • The data of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey from 2012 to 2013 was used as a baseline for this research.
  • On the basis of this new research, the researchers proposed that against the previous understanding, it is only a small portion of the SNAP beneficiaries spend on this pattern. This minority spends around two third of the monthly benefit during the first week- sometimes first four days- of the month. The study recommended that the education programs along with a change in the timetable of this assistance can help reduce this practice.

Groups with spending patterns

  • The Results discovered two divergent groups of SNAP beneficiaries with shockingly different spending practices. First smaller group, “impatient” households (constituting 39 percent), spends four times as much of their monthly assistance in the first few days compared to the “patient” group (around 61 percent). With passing days the spending patterns of both groups are becoming alike.
  • The people with a job or money in the bank are more likely to spend their benefits quickly while those with children at home or with little savings are inclined to spend slowly. On top of the mentioned facts, there were few statistically important distinctions between patient and impatient households that could clarify why their spending ways are so different.

Reasons for varying spending patterns and educating the groups

  • The leader of the research and policy experts ruled out deception, particularly the likelihood that the impatient households sell their benefits at the opening of the month to translate them into cash.
  • Many families are associated to SNAP through local food banks and caseworkers at state agencies, these organizations, both public and not-for-profit, play a major role in advising these recipients on when and how to use their SNAP dollars so they can stretch them over the full month.

 

  • The average SNAP recipient received about $126 a month (or about $4.20 a day, $1.40 per meal) in the fiscal year 2017. The SNAP benefit modus operandi aims benefits according to need:  very poor households receive better benefits than households closer to the poverty line given that they need more help affording an adequate diet.
SNAP Benefits by Household Size
Household Size Maximum Monthly Benefit, FY 2018 Estimated Average Monthly Benefit, FY 2018
1 $192 $134
2 $352 $252
3 $504 $376
4 $640 $456
5 $760 $521

 

  • SNAP is focused on the vulnerable and around 92 % of benefits go to the families with income below the standard poverty line and 56 % go to a household below half of the poverty line.
  • In the year 2017, SNAP-Ed, the nutrition education arm of DFCS, operated at 820 locations in 77 of Georgia’s 159 counties. That year, about 8 percent of total SNAP recipients in the state, was reached. According to statistics from DFCS, participants were 19 percent more likely to not face food shortage at the month’s end after the intervention.

Recommendations

  • The researchers proposed that education programs that teach basic budgeting could help change spending habits if they focus on impatient households. They also advocate that policymakers should consider providing SNAP benefits fortnightly in place once per month, which will not cost the government any additional money. It was noted that a bimonthly benefit would more closely reflect the normal financial budgeting of SNAP beneficiaries.
  • One researcher noted that more important than the frequency of the benefit issuance, the amount paid.
  • In 2018, the state began changing work requirements for adults without children or dependents that will reach all Georgia counties by 2019. These requirements resulted in thousands of SNAP recipients losing benefits or being reclassified.
  • Research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in 2016 also found that by raising the monthly SNAP benefit by $30 per person per month improves the likelihood of extending the availability of groceries throughout the full month and purchasing more nutritious foods.

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