Other Mandatory and Income Security Programs

Other Mandatory Spending and Income Security Programs

FY 2018

See below for funding levels and nonpartisan data and reports on:  Civilian and Military Retirement;  Veterans Benefits;  Earned Income Credit and Child Tax Credit;  SNAP (Food Stamps); Highways and Public Transit;  Military Retirement;  Supplemental Security Income (SSI);  Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF);  Child Support Enforcement;  Child Care Entitlement;  Unemployment Compensation;  Child Nutrition;  and Farm Safety Net programs (Crop Insurance, Commodity Programs, Conservation, and Disaster Assistance). 


Note on “Income Security” programsThe federal budget sometimes groups certain mandatory spending programs under the heading “income security.”  These may include Social Security (retirement and disability); Civilian and Military Retirement; Veterans Benefits; Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); and Unemployment Compensation.
Federal Civilian Retirement (including annuitants’ health care)

$102 billion

Veterans Benefits

 $100 billion

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit 

$87 billion

  • Note:  Although these are “tax credits,” this amount — $87 billion — is considered “spending” because taxpayers are receiving “refunds” larger than their tax liabilities.  These are also known as “refundable tax credits.”
SNAP (formerly Food Stamps)  

 $69 billion

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly called the Food Stamp Program), is designed to help low-income households purchase a nutritionally adequate low-cost diet. 
  • SNAP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service.
  • Household gross monthly income must be at or below 130% of the federal poverty level. 
  • Benefits are issued on an EBT card, which operates with a declining balance like a debit card. Benefits are not cash, may not be accessed at an automatic teller machine, and are redeemable only for foods (source).
  • SNAP: A Primer on Eligibility and Benefits
  • Domestic Food Assistance: Summary-of-Programs
  • CBO: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Highway and Public Transit Programs  $55 billion
  • Federal spending on highways and public transportation are funded by gasoline, diesel, and other Federal taxes dedicated to the Highway Trust Fund (“HTF”).  In recent years, taxes dedicated to the HTF have been insufficient to meet highway and transit needs and have been substantially supplemented by general tax revenues.
  • Every five or six years, Congress enacts a multiyear “Highway Bill” that sets funding levels for highway and transit programs and establishes allocation formulas to divide available resources among the States.  Based on the allocation formulas, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) annually apportions to States legal authority to enter into contracts (“contract authority”) obligating the Federal government to pay a share of project costs. When various phases of contract work are completed, a State notifies FHWA, which authorizes the U.S. Treasury to disburse funds to fulfill the Federal obligation.  These disbursements are scored as Federal “outlays.”
  • The budgetary treatment of highway and transit spending is unique because the authorizing committees (T&I in the House and EPW in the Senate) set the levels of “contract authority,” but the Appropriations Committees place caps on outlays through “obligations limitations” in the annual Transportation-HUD Appropriations Bill.
Military Retirement  

$54 billion

  • The military retirement system is a government-funded defined-benefit system that has historically been viewed as a significant retention incentive for military personnel.
  • The system currently includes monthly compensation for qualified active and reserve retirees, disability benefits for those deemed medically unfit to serve, and a survivor annuity program for the eligible survivors of deceased retirees.
  • The amount of compensation depends on years of service, basic pay at retirement, and annual cost-of-living-adjustments. (source)
  • CBO: snapshot of spending for military retirement
  • GAO report on military retirement (Dec 2018)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)  

 $51 billion

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) plus Child Support Enforcement
plus Child Care Entitlement cost $32 billion annually

$32 billion

  • The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant funds a wide range of benefits and services for low-income families with children. TANF was created in the 1996 welfare reform law (P.L. 104-193) and provides fixed funding to states, the bulk of which is provided in a $16.5 billion-per-year basic federal block grant (as of 2016). States are also required to contribute.  Source: CRS: The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant
  • The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program was enacted in 1975 as a federal-state program (Title IV-D of the Social Security Act) to help strengthen families by securing financial support for children from their noncustodial parent and by helping families to remain self-sufficient and off public assistance. In FY2012, the CSE program collected $27.7 billion in child support payments and served nearly 15.7 million child support cases. CRS: Child Support Enforcement: Program Basics
  • The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) is dedicated to child care subsidies for low-income working families. “CCDF” includes: discretionary child care funds authorized by the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act; mandatory child care funds authorized by the Social Security Act; state maintenance-of-effort (MOE) and matching funds; and federal funds transferred to the CCDF from states’ Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grants.
    States spent $8.6 billion from these combined federal and state funding streams in FY2012. CRS: Trends in Child Care Spending from the CCDF and TANF
Unemployment Compensation (UC) 

$30 billion

Child Nutrition

$24 billion

  • “Child nutrition programs” is a category used to describe the Dept. of Agriculture programs that help to provide food for children in school or institutional settings. 
  • The National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs provide a per-meal subsidy for each meal that is served.
  • The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) will, under certain circumstances, provide free meals or snacks to all the children at a site, because it is the site (not the child) that is subject to eligibility criteria.
  • The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), or snack program, is sometimes referred to as a child nutrition program (source).
  • An Introduction to Child Nutrition Reauthorization
Farm Programs (Mandatory)

$17 billion

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) operates several programs that supplement the income of farmers and ranchers in times of low farm prices and natural disasters. Federal crop insurance, farm programs, and disaster assistance are collectively called the “farm safety net.”
  • Federal crop insurance is permanently authorized and makes available subsidized insurance for more than 130 commodities (ranging from apples to wheat) to help farmers manage risks associated with a loss in yield or revenue. Since its inception in 1938, federal crop insurance has grown from an ancillary program with low participation to
    a central pillar of federal support for agriculture. From 2008
    to 2017, the direct costs of the federal crop insurance
    program totaled about $74 billion in current dollars. Producers pay a portion of the premium which increases as the level of coverage rises. The federal government pays the rest and covers the cost of selling and servicing the policies.
  • Farm commodity programs Price and income support is based primarily on statutorily fixed prices and not market prices (as in crop insurance). For crop years 2014-2018, the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 farm bill, P.L. 113-79) established minimum prices via the marketing loan program for approximately two dozen commodities, including corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, and peanuts. In addition, producers with
    production histories for covered crops have a one-time choice between Price Loss Coverage (PLC) payments and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) payments. Costs were projected in March 2015 at about $4 billion per year over the next decade. Programs are free for producers.
  • Agricultural conservation programs The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in the
    U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently administer 20 programs and subprograms that are directly or indirectly available to assist producers and landowners who wish to practice
    conservation on agricultural lands. 
  • Agricultural disaster assistance:  The Dept of Agriculture offers several programs to help farmers recover financially from natural disasters, including drought and floods. All the programs have permanent
    authorization, and only one requires a federal disaster designation (the emergency loan program). Most programs are mandatory funding — i.e. not subject to annual discretionary appropriations decisions.
  • The “Farm Bill” is an multi-year law that governs mandatory spending for nutrition and agricultural programs and authorizes discretionary programs at the Agriculture Dept. (with those funding levels set in the Agriculture Approps bill).   When the 2014 farm bill was enacted, CBO estimated that the total cost of mandatory programs in the bill would be $489 billion over the five years FY2014-FY2018, with SNAP (Food Stamps) consuming the bulk of the spending. Other mandatory spending covered crop insurance, conservation, and farm commodity support.
  • Farm Safety Net Programs: Background-and-Issues