More people to have to work for food stamps under Trump rule

Alonzo Simpson
December 5, 2019

The Trump administration is tightening work requirements for the federal food stamp program in a move that would slash benefits for hundreds of thousands of people.

The rule change, which was first unveiled earlier this year, would restrict states' ability to exempt people without dependents from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program's work requirements. "This rule lays the groundwork for the expectation that able-bodied Americans re-enter the workforce where there are now more job openings than people to fill them".

The latest rule will take effect next year and save the government $5.5bn over five years by removing about 688,000 people from the food stamps rolls, said Brandon Lipps, a USDA deputy undersecretary.

"For able-bodied adults without dependents, US law limits SNAP benefits to three months, unless recipients are working or in training for 20 hours a week", the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. If enacted, these new qualifications will become active on April 1, 2020. A year ago the administration announced it would allow states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients.

The food stamp program, however, already requires non-disabled, working-age adults without dependents to have jobs. Under the plan, states can only issue waivers if a city or county has an unemployment rate of 6% or higher.

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U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue wrote in a USA Today op-ed that the Trump administration was "taking steps to restore integrity to Snap and move people toward self-sufficiency". The limitations are usually three months within a 36-month period unless the adults meet certain work requirements.

"Instead of combating food insecurity for millions, connecting workers to good-paying jobs or addressing income inequality, the administration is inflicting their draconian rule on millions of Americans across the nation who face the highest barriers to employment and economic stability", Pelosi said in a statement.

Critics lashed out at the administration, saying it would leave more struggling Americans hungry.

The recipients affected by the new rule are among the poorest of the poor, with an average income of just 18% of the poverty line, or about $2,250 a year, said Robert Greenstein, president of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. They receive about $165 in food stamps a month. Plus, fewer areas will qualify for waivers during widespread, national recessions, according to the center.

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