The SNAP and TANF Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
36 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2020 Last revised: 2 Mar 2021
Date Written: February 26, 2021
TANF and SNAP cases increased by 3.4 million between March and June 2020, their largest quarterly increase ever. This paper explores trends on the caseload growth and pandemic policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. TANF and SNAP caseloads initially rose sharply by 10 and 18 percent, but afterwards TANF cases declined to pre-pandemic levels while SNAP caseloads leveled off. Comparing the caseload response relative to the unemployment shocks, each percentage point increase in unemployment is associated with a 1.1 percent increase in TANF cases and a 1.2 percent increase in SNAP cases. Considering the caseload response to pandemic policies, I find that combined unemployment insurance pandemic programs increased SNAP cases by 5 percent and by 3 percent for TANF. I also find that states which adopted pandemic-friendly policies had larger TANF and SNAP caseload growth during the pandemic, especially in states with less restrictive pre-pandemic policies.
Keywords: Public assistance programs, COVID-19 pandemic, poverty
JEL Classification: H0, H53, I3
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation