Category: Social Work
Social Work and Policy
Social Work and Policy
Overview: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a social policy implemented to deal with hunger among Americans. In 2018, SNAP helped around 40 million Americans from low-income families access adequate nutritious diets (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2019). SNAP offers critical nutritional support for low-wage households, low-income seniors, and persons suffering from disabilities, and other households with low-income. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2019), more than 75% of the SNAP users are households with children, and around 30% are households with disabled people and seniors. Apart from the unemployment insurance, SNAP is one of the most useful and responsive federal policies that offer assistance to families during economic challenging times.
Unlike other benefits programs, SNAP is widely accessible by families with low incomes. The eligibility criteria for SNAP are set by the federal government making them universal across the country. However, the states can vary the programs to ensure proper implementation of the program. The federal government sets three main criteria for qualifying for the SNAP program, including that the gross monthly income must be $2,252 per month or less in a household with three people (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2019). However, families with seniors and disabled persons are not required to meet these criteria. The family’s net monthly income, less the costs of housing and child care, must be lower than $1,732 per month. The final criteria are that assets must reduce below $2,250 for a household. Every state has its application process. On average, SNAP beneficiary gets around $127 per month. In 2018, the federal government allocated $68 billion on the SNAP program and associated assistance programs.
The two contrasting policy positions on SNAP provide a good perspective on the public perception of the social policy. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2019) argues that SNAP is a beneficial social program that has helped to improve the standards of living and give adequate diet to low-income and vulnerable families in the United States. The policy argument for SNAP highlights some of the benefits of the program, including the ability to protect the families from economic hardship and lack of food. A contrasting policy by Aussenberg (2018) argued that the SNP program was full of errors and fraud making it inefficient in the utilization of the resources. Some of the errors included trafficking of the SNAP benefits, retailer application fraud, fraud by applicants, and errors and fraud by state agencies. The errors and fraudulent activities counter the argument that the SNAP program is beneficial to the U.S. economy.
Comparison of the Policy Positions
The policy brief by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2019) supports the implementation of SNAP to help improve nutrition and giving children from low-income households access to quality meals. The program responds immediately in providing help to low-income families during times of economic downturn. When the economy weakens, the enrollment in the program increases. SNAP program assists the families to overcome short-term unemployment and family problems. For example, when parents do not have a job, they will rely on SNAP to feed their children (Berkowitz et al., 2017). The program also assists without adequate resources to buy enough food for their children.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2019) noted that SNAP benefits had lowered concerns of food insecurity among most American households. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2019) also noted that SNAP also protects the entire U.S economy. SNAP benefits are recognized as the most efficient and effective way for economic stimulus because they increase money supply into the economy. Low-income beneficiaries spent the money on daily needs, increasing money supply into the economy during a recession. SNAP also reduces the degree and severity of economic hardships and poverty (Leung et al., 2017). The program is implemented as an anti-poverty economic tool that focuses on helping families meet their basic needs and reduce insecurities. SNAP is also effective in supporting a culture of healthy eating. The initiative gives low-income families access to healthy foods. SNAP also assists in responding to the inherent disasters quickly by providing essential food assistance to the affected families.
Unlike the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2019), Aussenberg (2018) argued that the implementation of the SNAP program allowed for errors and fraud that impacted its benefits to vulnerable people and low-income families. The counter policy proposal explained four types of inaccuracies and misconduct in the implementation of SNAP. One of the types is the trafficking of SNAP benefits, which involves the illegal selling of the benefits to recipients and retailers (Bleich et al., 2020). Such illegal arrangements are acceptable and often lead to the misuse of federal government resources. Another major type of inaccuracies is retailer application fraud that involves illegal efforts by owners of stores to take part in SNAP while they are ineligible. Errors and fraud performed by the households will also make improper applications for SNAP benefits and thus, leading to unacceptable payments. Errors are unintentional mistakes. However, fraud involves intentional efforts by the households to violate the guidelines of the program for selfish gains. Errors and fraud associated with the state agencies cause huge losses of funds because agency errors will lead to significant improper payments. The quality control misconduct and the lack of fiscal supervision often lead to significant agency fraud. However, the congressional research service report agreed that fraud is rare.
Policy Solutions and Support of Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
The SNAP policy solutions incorporate the implementation of various strategies to improve the effectiveness and the benefits of SNAP among the participants. One of the policy solutions is the protection of the current level of funding for SNAP. Some of the congress members have argued against the program calling for the reduction of the budget of the program. There is a need to maintain and increase the SNAP spending to improve the health and the welfare of Americans. The budgetary cuts would hurt the children from low-income families and impact the economic recovery process. The second policy recommendation is the collection of data on SNAP purchases (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2019). The department of agriculture should gather adequate data and increase awareness of the data on the SNAP purchases to assist in enhancing the nutritional quality of the participants and the transparency and effectiveness of the program. The identification of the integrated strategies would be beneficial in the alignment of the purchases of the program with the appropriate dietary guidelines for the Americans. The identification and testing of transformative improvements on the program will improve nutritious diets and assist in the prevention of obesity among the low-income participants.
The Group, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, supports the policy solutions by repairing the damage of the reduction of the funding and restrictions of participants. There is a need for the federal government to reverse the restrictions made by the Trump administration to allow young children from immigrants to get access to the SNAP benefits. Such a program would be beneficial in fighting recession and improving the growth of the economy effectively (Berkowitz et al., 2017). Other effective policy recommendations recommended by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities will include focusing on the health of children with the program, use of incentives in making healthy foods easy choice, and creating improved food stocking standards for the retailers (Leung et al., 2017). The improvement of innovation of the program, creation of partnerships with SNAP, and the formulation of the national strategy will be critical in promoting the success of the food assistance program.
Social Policy Solutions Aligns with Social Work Values
Some of the important social work values are service, social justice, dignity, integrity, and competence. The implementation of SNAP is a service to the vulnerable people in the society. The SNAP program seeks to serve the needs of the people by providing funding for the benefits of getting nutritious foods at affordable rates. The policy solutions will perform research to collect data to improve integrity and competence by ensuring only eligible participants enjoy the SNAP benefits. Errors and fraud would make the implementation of SNAP a violation of the NASW code of ethics. However, the innovation of the SNAP application process and rectifying potential errors and fraud will improve the fairness and the integrity of the program (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2019). The social justice value aligns with the SNAP policy solution to maintain the funding and ensure consistency in the registering of the applicants. Therefore, the SNAP initiative will be useful to low-income families to get nutritious and affordable meals and help them in recovery during economic recession times.
Aussenberg, R. A. (2018, September 28). Errors and Fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Congressional Research Service. https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R45147.pdf.
Berkowitz, S. A., Seligman, H. K., Rigdon, J., Meigs, J. B., & Basu, S. (2017). Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation and health care expenditures among low-income adults. JAMA Internal Medicine, 177(11), 1642-1649.
Bleich, S. N., Moran, A. J., Vercammen, K. A., Frelier, J. M., Dunn, C. G., Zhong, A., & Fleischhacker, S. E. (2020). Strengthening the public health impacts of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program through policy. Annual Review of Public Health, 41, 453-480.
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (2019, June 25). Policy basics: The supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP). https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/policy-basics-the-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap#:~:text=SNAP%20enables%20low%2Dincome%20households,individuals%20not%20participating%20in%20SNAP.
Leung, C. W., Musicus, A. A., Willett, W. C., & Rimm, E. B. (2017). Improving the nutritional impact of the supplemental nutrition assistance program: perspectives from the participants. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 52(2), S193-S198.