Fox Deceptively Links Growth Of Food Stamp Program To 2009 Stimulus Bill

Fox News' Special Report falsely suggested that the recent growth of the food stamp program was due to President Obama's 2009 economic stimulus, asserting that the bill “eviscerated” work requirements for food stamps. In fact, most of the growth in the program was due to economic factors, primarily the recession, and 46 states had received work requirement waivers before Obama took office.

Fox Suggests Stimulus Was To Blame For Expanded Food Stamp Use And Removal Of Work Requirement

Special Report Suggests Obama's Stimulus Is To Blame For Expansion Of Food Stamp Program. On the December 12 edition of Special Report, correspondent Shannon Bream discussed the expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program, during the recent recession. Although Bream noted that the Department of Agriculture said this expansion is “consistent with the increase [in participation] in previous periods of economic decline,” Bream implied that the recent SNAP expansion was due to provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, or stimulus bill. After Bream said that “skeptics point to one key factor” behind the growth of SNAP, a clip of Wall Street Journal editorial member and Fox News contributor Stephen Moore aired, in which Moore said, “A lot of people don't realize, one of the provisions in the 2009 economic stimulus bill was to essentially eviscerate all the work requirements for food stamps.” [Fox News, Special Report, 12/12/12]

Fox News' Moore: 2009 Stimulus “Eviscerate[d] All Work Requirements For Food Stamps ... So Today, In Most States, There Is No Requirement To Work Whatsoever.” Moore went on to claim that the 2009 stimulus is responsible for eliminating the food stamp work requirement in most states: “A lot of people don't realize, one of the provisions in the 2009 economic stimulus bill was to essentially eviscerate all the work requirements for food stamps. So today, in most states, there is no requirement whatsoever to work in exchange for these benefits.” [Fox News, Special Report, 12/12/12]

But About 80 Percent Of Growth In Food Stamp Spending Was Due To Economic Factors, Not Stimulus ...

CBO: Only “About 20 Percent Of The Growth In Spending Can Be Attributed To Temporarily Higher Benefit Amounts Enacted In” The Stimulus. In an April 2012 report about SNAP, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) noted that the number of people receiving SNAP benefits grew by 70 percent “between fiscal years 2007 and 2011.” The report noted that spending on SNAP benefits grew by about 135 percent during that period, then explained that over 65 percent of that growth in spending can be attributed to the weak economy:

The increase in the number of people eligible for and receiving benefits between 2007 and 2011 has been driven primarily by the weak economy. That increase was responsible for about 65 percent of the growth in spending on benefits between 2007 and 2011. About 20 percent of the growth in spending can be attributed to temporarily higher benefit amounts enacted in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The remainder stemmed from other factors, such as higher food prices and lower income among beneficiaries, both of which boost benefits. [Congressional Budget Office, 4/19/12]

... And All But Four States Had Received Work Requirement Waivers Before Obama Took Office

Stimulus Temporarily Waived Some Work Requirements For Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents. The 2009 stimulus bill suspended the requirement that able-bodied adults without dependents obtain work within three months of first receiving SNAP benefits. This suspension lasted from April 2009 through September 2010. [Congressional Research Service, 9/14/12]

USDA Has “Been Able To Grant States And Counties [Work] Waivers Since ... 1996.” explained in September that “USDA officials have been able to grant states and counties waivers ever since the rules were enacted in 1996.” continued, “Waivers have been granted if unemployment in the area exceeded 10 percent, or if the area 'does not have a sufficient number of jobs to provide employment for the individuals,' according to a 2004 USDA memo. For instance, if a state had been eligible for extended unemployment benefits within the past year, USDA said, 'we will approve a waiver.' ” [, 9/27/12]

46 States Had Received Work Requirement Waivers Before Obama Took Office. The same report by also noted, “A law signed by President George W. Bush in November 2008 also expanded the criteria under which states could provide extended unemployment benefits. States that qualified for extended benefits were also eligible for these SNAP waivers.” explained:

Because of the 2008 unemployment law alone, 32 states and the District of Columbia, plus the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, were automatically eligible for waivers by Feb. 15, 2009, a few days before Obama signed the stimulus bill into law.

According to an official USDA list dated Jan. 8, 2009, days before Obama took office, only Delaware, Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont were listed as having no current waivers. Bush administration officials had granted waivers for the entire states of Alaska, California, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island and South Carolina, plus the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and the Virgin Islands. Also, all 88 counties in Ohio had waivers that wouldn't expire until June 30, 2010.

In other states, waivers had been granted for specific counties or other jurisdictions. Arizona had waivers for three cities and towns, 12 counties and five Indian reservations, for example. Georgia had been granted waivers for 68 counties and had just applied for a statewide waiver, a request that was listed as “pending.” Kentucky had waivers for 93 counties and also had applied for a statewide waiver as well. All told, 46 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Virgin Islands had received waivers that covered all or parts of those jurisdictions. [, 9/27/12]

For details on how most SNAP recipients work, or are seniors or children, click here.

Food Stamp Benefits Have Boosted The Economy And Kept Millions Out Of Poverty

CBPP: “Economists Consider SNAP One Of The Most Effective Forms Of Economic Stimulus.” According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), “Economists consider SNAP one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus. Moody's Analytics estimates that in a weak economy, every dollar increase in SNAP benefits generates $1.72 in economic activity.” CBPP also noted: “Similarly, CBO rated an increase in SNAP benefits as one of the two most cost-effective of all spending and tax options it examined for boosting growth and jobs in a weak economy.” [CBPP, 7/9/12]

Economist Mark Zandi: “Extending Food Stamps Is The Most Effective Way To Prime The Economy's Pump.” In his July 24, 2008, testimony before the House Committee on Small Business, Mark Zandi, chief economist and co-founder of Moody's, stated:

An effective stimulus package could include a gas tax holiday, expansion of the food stamp program, a payroll tax holiday, aid to state governments, extension of the investment tax incentives, and increased infrastructure spending. The biggest lift from this stimulus would go to lower-income households struggling to pay soaring gasoline and food prices and to small businesses getting hit hardest in the current downturn.

Extending food stamps is the most effective way to prime the economy's pump. A $1 increase in food stamp payments boosts GDP by $1.73. People who receive these benefits are very hard-pressed and will spend any financial aid they receive within a few weeks. Because these programs are already operating, increased benefits can be quickly delivered to recipients.

Zandi included with his testimony a table stating that a “Temporary Increase in Food Stamps” had the highest “Fiscal Economic Bank for the Buck” of any other potential stimulus provision he analyzed:

Based on Zandi's testimony, the Economic Policy Institute created the following graphic:

[, 7/24/08; Economic Policy Institute, 10/22/08]

CBPP: SNAP Kept Nearly 5 Million Out Of Poverty In 2011. In a November 14 post, CBPP's Off the Charts blog stated that SNAP kept 4.7 million people, including 2.1 million children, out of poverty in 2011. A subsequent blog post noted that the program also “helped almost 45 million low-income Americans to afford a nutritionally adequate diet in a typical month.” From Off the Charts:

[CBPP, 11/14/12, 11/20/12]