The Safety Net Also Doubles as a Ladder: SNAP Keeps Tens of Thousands of New Jerseyans Out of Poverty Each Year

While the food stamp program – now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – is well-known to keep poor Americans from going hungry, less discussed is SNAP’s importance in lifting millions of people out of poverty each year.

In New Jersey, SNAP lifted an average of 72,000 people out of poverty each year from 2009 to 2012, according to a new state-by-state analysis by the Brookings Institution. Nationwide, that number was 4.8 million people, including 2.1 million children.

SNAP, like other major federal safety-net programs, helps the working poor meet their basic needs. The more likely a household can do that, the more likely that household can escape poverty and climb into a working- or middle-class existence. This lifeline is particularly important in New Jersey due to increasing state eligibility restrictions in Work First NJ, which have resulted in the program providing minimal cash assistance for less than half the families living below the federal poverty level, as well as major cutbacks in the state Earned Income Tax Credit.

Short-sighted demands to drastically reduce funding or impose excessive eligibility requirements for SNAP were wisely negotiated away from in the bipartisan Farm Bill recently signed into law. While the bill did include unfortunate cuts to the SNAP program, it removes virtually no recipients from the program, and – more importantly – a failure to compromise and pass legislation would have significantly harmed working families.

The bottom line: SNAP remains an essential tool in the fight against poverty in New Jersey.

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