Emergency allotments central to SNAP spending growth during pandemic

This is a combined line graph and bar graph. The bar graph shows inflation-adjusted spending on SNAP from 2004 to 2022. The line graph shows the participation rate in SNAP over the same period.

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is designed to expand during economic downturns. SNAP participation and inflation-adjusted spending grew each year from fiscal year (FY) 2007–13 following the Great Recession and from FY 2019–21 following the recession caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, aspects of program growth differed between these periods. Average monthly participation increased faster, for longer, and by a greater amount following the Great Recession than it did after the COVID-19 recession, peaking at 47.6 million participants in FY 2013. Although participation grew less from FY 2019–21, inflation-adjusted spending rose more quickly given the shorter time span, from $67.5 billion in FY 2019 to $120.8 billion in FY 2021 (an average 39.5-percent increase per year). Emergency allotments were central to SNAP spending growth during the pandemic. Emergency allotments were issued as monthly supplements in response to the pandemic, bringing all recipients’ benefits to the maximum allowed each month beginning in 2020 (and later providing a minimum of $95 per month for all recipients). In FY 2021, emergency allotments and other disaster supplements accounted for $39.2 billion, almost a third of total spending. Excluding spending on emergency allotments and other disaster supplements, total spending was only $81.6 billion in FY 2021, about $15 billion less than FY 2013 spending, adjusting for inflation. Emergency allotments ended in 17 States over FY 2021–22 and in the remainder of States in early 2023. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Amber Waves article, U.S. Food and Nutrition Assistance Programs Continued To Respond to Economic and Public Health Conditions in Fiscal Year 2022, released August 2023.

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