More Maryland Families Will Go Hungry Unless Congress Rejects Administration Budget

June 20, 2017 by Christopher Meyer in Blog

Two major food assistance programs that help hundreds of thousands of struggling Maryland residents put food on the table are on the chopping block in the Trump budget. Cuts to these programs will leave more Marylanders hungry, deepen poverty, and make it harder for the state to make needed investments in things like schools and roads. Congress should reject these cruel cuts.

Budget Offloads SNAP to the States

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has improved child health and helps kids do better in school. It currently serves 679,000 people in Maryland and brings $1.1 billion in federal dollars into the state each year. SNAP softened the blow of the Great Recession by helping families facing job loss or lower wages put food on the table. About 121,000 fewer people are enrolled in SNAP in Maryland since the peak in 2013, thanks to improvements in the economy.

The president’s budget proposes to radically restructure SNAP by shifting 25 percent of the program’s cost onto the states by 2026. As a high-income state, Maryland would likely be required to contribute even more. If this proposal were in place today, it would cost Maryland about $276 million in the state’s 2018 budget year—more than the state pays out of general funds to support the Maryland State Police. To absorb this cost, the state would have to cut benefits, reduce other state investments, or raise taxes—or, most likely, some combination of all three.

Cutting benefits would make it harder for Maryland families to afford a minimally healthy diet. If the state cut benefit levels by 20 percent, SNAP would be far less effective in reducing hunger, while still leaving the state with $221 million in annual costs.

Weekly grocery budget for a single adult based on current benefit levels: Weekly grocery budget for a single adult after a 20 percent cut:
  • Chicken drumsticks, 2 pounds
  • Broccoli, 2 pounds
  • Carrots, 1 pound
  • Red beans, 1.5 pounds
  • Rice, 1 pound
  • Whole wheat bread, 2 loaves
  • Eggs, half dozen
  • Milk, 1 gallon
  • Peanut butter, 1/4 jar
  • Bananas, half bunch
  • An apple a day

1,688 Calories per day

  • Chicken drumsticks, 2 pounds
  • Broccoli, 2 pounds
  • Carrots, 1 pound
  • Red beans, 1.5 pounds
  • Rice, 1 pound
  • Whole wheat bread, 1 loaf
  • Eggs, 3
  • Milk, half gallon
  • No peanut butter
  • Bananas, half bunch
  • An apple a day, except weekends

1,184 Calories per day

Note: According to USDA data, average SNAP benefits in Maryland are $120.25 per person per month. Grocery list loosely based on the USDA Thrifty Meal Plan. Quantities based on Safeway prices in Baltimore City. Calorie estimates based on data from and USDA data via Google.


This cost shift would also destabilize the economy. Currently, when people lose their jobs during a recession, the federal government fully funds increased participation in SNAP. This both prevents families from going hungry and boosts economic activity when it is most needed. If the proposed cost shift is enacted, any increase in SNAP participation will increase the program’s cost to states right when tax receipts are at their lowest. They will have no choice but to cut spending further or raise more revenue, which would weaken the economy at the worst possible time.

Budget Eliminates Time Limit Flexibility

The Trump administration’s budget goes further by worsening an already flawed time limit provision in SNAP. Currently, SNAP participants who are not elderly, caring for dependent children, or living with a disability may receive SNAP benefits for only three months in a 36-month period, unless they either work or participate in a job training program for 20 hours a week or more. The problem is, there is no requirement that states ensure people who are affected by this time limit have access to work or job training opportunities—and in practice, many do not.

Under current law, states can apply for waivers to suspend the time limit in areas where the unemployment rate is at least 20 percent above the national rate for a prolonged period. (The current national unemployment rate is 4.3 percent, although other measures show more weakness in the labor market.) This flexibility allows people to put food on the table if there are not enough jobs available in their area, and it is especially important during recessions. The proposed budget would make this standard much stricter, allowing waivers only when the local unemployment rate exceeds 10 percent. This would render the waiver option essentially useless in all but the most severe downturns. Currently, 13 Maryland counties use waivers to ensure high unemployment doesn’t stand between residents and access to food. Under the new rule, not one would qualify.

SNAP map

Administrative Changes Weaken SNAP Further

The president’s budget makes several other changes to SNAP that would weaken the program further and put more Marylanders at risk of inadequate nutrition.

  • The budget eliminates an option that allows states to provide SNAP benefits to some residents whose incomes put them slightly over the program’s eligibility threshold but who face other costs that make food unaffordable. This change would take food assistance away from about 1 million people nationwide and create a “cliff,” meaning that small changes in income can cause families to lose benefits entirely.
  • The budget eliminates the minimum SNAP benefit of $16 per month, which primarily benefits seniors and people with disabilities. This change would mean a $7 million cut in federal funding in Maryland. Some beneficiaries would lose part of their benefits; in other cases, it would increase costs for the state.
  • The budget proposes a recurring fee for retailers that wish to accept SNAP. If stores decide it is not worth paying the fee, food could become less accessible in low-income communities.
  • The budget caps family size adjustments, meaning that large families would have more difficulty affording food.

WIC Cut Threatens Children’s Health and Development

The Special Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) helps pregnant women and mothers of young children in several ways. The program directly provides food children need, like baby food, milk, and whole grain bread. It also helps participants buy fruits and vegetables and provides health care services including nutritional guidance. Because WIC benefit levels aren’t set by law, the program is affected by the administration’s proposed $54 billion cut to nondefense discretionary spending. Maryland stands to lose $3.4 million per year in WIC funding. Research shows that babies who benefit from WIC are more likely to get the nutrients they need, more likely to see a doctor, and less likely to die. These gains would shrink under President Trump’s budget.

Congress Should Protect Anti-Hunger Policies

The president’s budget calls for deep, inhumane cuts to programs that reduce poverty and help families afford food. These cuts would have major effects in Maryland, and would ripple out to other state investments like education, health, and public safety. In return, a small number of wealthy people would get billions of dollars in tax cuts. Congress should prioritize hungry families by rejecting these cuts.