KY Policy Blog

Tracking SNAP in Kentucky

By Dustin Pugel
May 20, 2019

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a vital source of assistance that helps put food on the table for hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians. As of 2017, it served 258,000 children, 63,000 people over the age of 60, and 317,000 Kentuckians age 18-59 years old. It is also an economic benefit to communities throughout the commonwealth, with direct economic benefits of $854 million during the 2018 federal fiscal year. But recent policy decisions at the federal and state levels threaten to weaken this assistance. This post will serve to track SNAP in Kentucky – as it responds to such policy decisions as well as economic trends – and will be updated as new data become available.

SNAP Enrollment April 2019: 533,922
SNAP enrollment has been declining since the middle of 2013, as the economy improves and people no longer need assistance. SNAP responds very efficiently to changes in the economy, so if and when there is another downturn, SNAP participation will likely rise again. Additionally, there have been two instances since 2013 when the decline in SNAP enrollment accelerated. First, in February of 2016, large disruptions in enrollment followed the faulty launch of Kentucky’s new online benefits enrollment system, Benefind. After May of 2018, enrollment dropped sharply again with the reinstatement of a three month time limit for some adults.

This graph does not include data from February 2019, when, due to the federal government shutdown, SNAP benefits were not distributed.

Percent of Kentucky participating in SNAP April 2019: 11.9%
Benefits spent April 2019: $60.7 million
Every county in Kentucky benefits from SNAP – both the individuals who receive the assistance and the local economies where the benefits are spent. The share of each county’s population receiving SNAP ranges from 1.9 percent in Oldham County to 38.3 percent in Martin County. Tens of millions of dollars are spent on groceries each month, which helps to stimulate other spending in local economies and empowers participants to use more of their income on other necessities like rent, utilities and transportation.

Total number of Kentucky adults losing SNAP due to time limit between January 2018 and March 2019: 21,419
Beginning in February of 2018, the state began re-instating a three-month SNAP time limit in 92 Kentucky counties (20 had already been in effect) for approximately 54,000 adults who do not have a dependent or a disability. The result was that after May 2018, thousands of Kentuckians lost food assistance because they could not adhere to the reporting requirements three months in a row.

 

For more resources on SNAP in Kentucky:

  • The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a series of fact sheets on SNAP in Kentucky.
  • The Food Research and Action Center has a series of maps that display a variety of SNAP data.
  • Additional data on SNAP can be found at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service website.
  • The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services administers Kentucky’s SNAP program, and provides a lot of information for beneficiaries and retailers on their website.

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