CBO: Debt ceiling bill will increase SNAP spending

The Congressional Budget Office said in a report released late Tuesday that the debt ceiling bill will increase, not decrease, spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program due to the exemptions to work requirements for veterans, the homeless and people leaving foster care between the ages of 18 and 24.

In a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., CBO Director Phillip Swagel wrote that the debt ceiling bill — formally the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 — would reduce overall spending and the federal deficit, but increase SNAP spending.

Swagel wrote, “CBO estimates that all of the changes to SNAP work requirements would increase direct spending by $2.1 billion over the 2023–2033 period.”

“During the 2025–2030 period, when the group of people up to the age of 54 would be subject to the work requirement and the new exclusions were in effect, approximately 78,000 people would gain benefits in an average month, on net (an increase of about 0.2% in the total number of people receiving SNAP benefits),” Swagel said.

“A Republican attempt to expand work requirements for federal food aid in debt legislation moving through Congress would increase federal spending by $2.1 billion over 10 years — far from the cuts GOP lawmakers had promised,”Associated Press veteran agriculture reporter Mary Clare Jalonick wrote in an analysis published late Tuesday.

McCarthy dismissed the estimates, the AP reported.

“Come see me in a year, and I’ll show you how much we actually saved,” McCarthy said as he left a late-night meeting Tuesday with his members. “You watch — a lot of people are going to get jobs now.”

The CBO analysis seems to confirm a statement by White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young on Tuesday that, “The analysis is being finalized, but we believe those who are off of those requirements, because of those exemptions, will be about the same number as those who are phased in on age.”

She added, “And you have to remember this: This entire SNAP change is sunset in 2030 to give Congress a chance to see how the new exemptions work and how the new ages work. And they can opine on a future farm bill if these changes have made a difference in the SNAP program.”

As the debt ceiling bill comes up for a vote today, the CBO analysis raises questions about how anti-hunger groups and House Democrats as well as conservatives will react to it.

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