I commented last month that I thought cuts to the SNAP (“food stamps”) program in Mississippi would undermine the public’s health, given our high poverty rate and heavy dependence on the program, especially by vulnerable populations like children and the poor elderly. Now that the November 1 cuts have kicked in, we might soon add the state economy itself to the list of damages.
According to the Mississippi Economic Policy Council (mepconline.org), SNAP is a significant factor in the health of local economies throughout the state. At mid-year, nearly 3500 Mississippi retailers – primarily grocery stores and convenience stores – were authorized to accept SNAP benefits. In FY 2012, these retailers redeemed $1 billion in SNAP benefits, a figure that’s almost sure to hold for the year following, but will decline as a result of cuts. Moreover, for every dollar spent, economists say there’s at least $1.70 in economic activity generated - activity that goes well beyond the stores to everyone involved in the food industry production and supply chain, from farmers to truck drivers.
So cuts to safety net programs like SNAP – often cheered by critics who think such programs only encourage dependency and sloth – are felt not only by the recipients, but much more broadly by businesses that provide jobs and communities that need them.