In a move that will knock hundreds of thousands of people off the federal food stamp rolls, the Trump administration on Wednesday formally tightened work requirements for the program that helps feed more than 36 million Americans.
Eligibility for food stamps, known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is based on a formula that takes into consideration family size, citizenship status, household income and certain expenses. It can apply to individuals as well as families.
The new rule, which was finalized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, restricts states from exempting certain “work-eligible adults” without dependents from the steady employment requirement in order to receive SNAP benefits.
The change, which takes effect on April 1, 2020, does not apply to children and their parents, those over 50 (including the elderly), those with a disability or pregnant women.
When the rule change was first proposed in February, the USDA estimated that as many as 750,000 people would be dropped from the program. It revised that figure on Wednesday to 688,000.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in an opinion column published by the Arizona Daily Star on Wednesday that the food stamp program “was never intended to be a way of life.”
“Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch,” he wrote. “Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream. We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand.”
During what Perdue called the strongest economy in a generation, “we need everyone who can work, to work.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York said Wednesday that the new rule “would potentially throw hundreds of thousands off food assistance, driving the vulnerable into hunger just as the Christmas season begins.”
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SOURCE: USA Today, Doug Stanlin