Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

The Food Stamp Program and Supplemental Security Income

Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

The Food Stamp Program and Supplemental Security Income

Article excerpt

Summary

The Food Stamp Program (FSP) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are important parts of national public assistance policy, and there is considerable overlap in the populations that the programs serve. About half of all SSI recipients reside in FSP recipient households. This article uses Social Security administrative data and the Food Stamp Quality Control samples for federal fiscal years 2001-2006 to study the prevalence of food stamp receipt among households with SSI recipients, the contribution of FSP to household income, and the importance of various FSP features in contributing to the well-being of recipient households. The prevalence of FSP participation among households that include SSI recipients is estimated to have grown steadily over the entire 2001-2006 period, rising from 47.4 percent in 2001 to 55.6 percent in 2006. This growth has occurred across all age groups of SSI recipients. The FSP contribution to household income has grown as well. In 2001, FSP increased the income of the households of SSI/FSP recipients by 13 percent; by 2006 the increase was 16.8 percent. Almost 80? percent of the food stamp recipient households that include SSI recipients receive increased benefits because of excess housing costs. In 2006, 44 percent of SSI recipients lived in households that did not receive food stamps. Given available information, it is difficult to gauge the FSP eligibility of nonparticipating households and, therefore, to assess the potential benefit of outreach efforts. Currently available measures of FSP take-up probably overstate participation among eligible households that include SSI recipients, and there is some evidence that enhanced state promotion of the FSP raises participation among households with SSI recipients. We conclude with recommendation for review and renewal of collaboration between the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (the agency responsible for administering the FSP) and the Social Security Administration in ensuring that eligible SSI recipients utilize FSP benefits.

Introduction

The United States addresses poverty with multiple programs. Often the programs are intended to at least partially overlap-for example, people may receive both Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits and Section 8 Housing Assistance.1 However, because programs are operated by various agencies and under different federal/state relationships, it is sometimes difficult to gain a clear picture of their combined effects on individual and family well-being. Understanding program overlap and interaction experienced "on the ground" is important to effective program management and comprehensive policy evaluation.

This article investigates interaction between Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and the Food Stamp Program (FSP). The two programs are important parts of national social assistance policy, and there is overlap in the populations they serve. In 2004 the nation spent $24.6 billion on FSP benefits and $34.7?billion on SSI benefits (Spar 2006, 236-239). While SSI recipients constitute only about 12 percent of all persons receiving food stamps, about half of all SSI recipients reside in FSP recipient households. Thus the FSP plays some role in the well-being of SSI recipients. We are interested in just what, and how large, that role is.

We begin with summaries of both programs and then analyze the prevalence of FSP participation among SSI recipients, the size of the FSP benefit and its relationship to overall household resources, and the relationship between FSP administration and SSI/FSP take-up. For data consistency we generally report program characteristics and other data for 2004, but where useful we extend the analysis to investigate changes over the 2001-2006 interval. We conclude that (1) FSP is a significant benefit for many households that include SSI recipients; (2) the FSP contribution to the well-being of SSI recipients has been increasing in recent years; (3) FSP treatment of housing costs is an important factor in the contribution of FSP benefits to the income of households with SSI recipients; and (4) there is some evidence that some SSI households not currently receiving food stamps are eligible, but the potential gain from outreach efforts is uncertain. …

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