Trump administration finalizes plan to change employment standards required by SNAP; may leave hundreds of thousands without nutrition assistance

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Work requirements for food stamp recipients will tighten under the Trump administration’s finalized Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s plan. According to reports, this will leave close to 688,000 low-income adults without nutrition assistance to go into effect April 1, 2020.

The rule change will tighten work requirements and “restrict states’ ability to exempt people without dependents from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP) work requirements,” according to the Environmental Working Group. Currently under SNAP, adults able to work who have no children must work at least 20 hours a week or else they will lose their benefits. But states with high unemployment rates—7 percent or higher—can waive this requirement.

This new rule change will make it much harder for states to waive the work requirement for able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 49 without dependents.

The administration claims the rule change will encourage SNAP recipients to find jobs.

“We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand, but not allowing it to become an infinitely giving hand,” Sonny Perdue, U.S. Agriculture Secretary, said in a press release. “Now, in the midst of the strongest economy in a generation, we need everyone who can work, to work. This rule lays the groundwork for the expectation that able-bodied Americans re-enter the workforce where there are currently more job openings than people to fill them.”

The Trump administration’s outlined plan of this rule change came back in April, when it faced much backlash with more than 100,000 Americans criticizing the cuts during the comment period.

“The comments make it clear that most Americans not only oppose but are utterly repulsed by this plan to punish the poorest among us by denying them help to feed themselves,” Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs, said. “Instead of making already struggling Americans suffer even more, we urge President Trump to cut off the farm subsidy spigot of taxpayer money flowing into the brimming bank accounts of millionaires.”

According to a study published by Urban Institute last week, in 2018, “the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed changes to three aspects of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP: the unemployment standards required for waivers from time limits for adults who are mentally and physically able to work, have no dependents, and do not meet work requirements; the types of government benefits that automatically qualify families for SNAP; and the approach to calculating standard utility allowances.”

“Such changes to the nation’s largest nutrition assistance program, one, could affect how millions of poor and low-income Americans purchase food,” the study stated.

The rule change is said to save more than $5 billion over five years.

“The rule restores the system to what Congress intended: assistance through difficult times, not a way of life,” Perdue said.

But anti-hunger advocates said the rule change will take food from many Americans and will ultimately affect low-income adults who can’t find a job.

“The final rule would cause serious harm to individuals, communities, and the nation while doing nothing to improve the health and employment of those impacted by the rule,” James D. Weill, president of the nonprofit Food Research & Action Center, said. “In addition, the rule would harm the economy, grocery retailers, agricultural producers, and communities by reducing the amount of SNAP dollars available to spur local economic activity.”

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