Government Programs for the Disadvantaged are Reaching More People
Health care for low-income children is usually covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Medicaid. In 2017, 9.5 million children were enrolled in CHIP and in 2016, the most recent year available, 28.1 million children were enrolled in Medicaid. Overall, 73.8 million people are enrolled in Medicaid with an average of $8,024 spent per enrollee.
Given America's compulsory K-12 education system, schools play a significant role in combating hunger. The number of children receiving free or reduced-price school lunches overtook the dropping number of those paying full price in 1992, a trend that has since grown (Fig. 63). 22 million children (39% of K-12 students) received free or reduced-price school lunch in 2016, an increase of 13 percentage points since 1980.
Additional low-income assistance programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which provides assistance to elderly, blind, and disabled people with little or no income. SNAP monthly benefits have increased by 21%, from $102 per month in 1989 to $123 per month in 2018 (Fig. 62). SNAP recipients are currently 12% of the population, down from a high of 15% in 2012. In 2017, 8.2 million people received SSI payments, with $6,964 spent per person.
Though Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding has remained relatively constant in inflation-adjusted dollars, the number of children and adults it serves has decreased dramatically, from 12.6 million in 1996 to 2.6 million in 2016 (Fig. 64). At the same time, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was claimed by 27.4 million tax filers in 2016, an increase from 19.5 million in 1996. The EITC provides a tax reduction/refund to low-wage working families. The credit is calculated based on income, marital status, and the number of dependent children, and ranges from $519 to $6,431. 29 states and the District of Columbia also offer versions of the EITC for state taxes.