Food-Stamp Spending Seen Dropping in 2013 on Outlook for U.S. Labor Market

Spending on food-stamp benefits would fall 0.6 percent to $69.9 billion in the 2013 fiscal year as employment improves, according to projections contained in the budget President Barack Obama submitted to Congress.

Spending for the food-stamp component of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, still would be the second-highest on record and 17 percent above 2011, the government said in its proposal today for U.S. Department of Agriculture spending. Overall budget authority for all related initiatives would fall 0.9 percent to $87.4 billion.

“SNAP is the cornerstone of our nation’s food-assistance safety net and touches the lives of more than 46 million people,” according to the budget document.

Food stamps have become a theme in this year’s presidential campaign, as enrollment has increased 47 percent since December 2008, a month before President Barack Obama took office. The program’s rising cost has been called unsustainable by Republicans including Newt Gingrich, who has labeled Obama “the best food-stamp president in American history.”

About 46.286 million Americans received aid in November, the last month for which data was available, up 0.1 percent from October, according to the USDA. Participation was 6.2 percent higher than a year earlier. The government spent $6.21 billion on the program for the month, up 6.9 percent from 2010.

The number of Americans receiving assistance under the program set records every month from December 2008 until June 2011 and has changed little since September. There were two monthly declines last year through November, partly because of drops in special assistance to victims of weather disasters.

Joblessness (USURTOT) fell to 8.3 percent in January from 8.5 percent in December, the Labor Department said last month.

Food-stamp enrollment tends to lag unemployment gains and declines. Participation in the program should fall as the economy improves, according to Kevin Concannon, the head of the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Bjerga in Washington at abjerga@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net

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