USDA announces new rules for SNAP food assistance recipients

Ruben Fields
December 5, 2019

Reports said the proposal would tighten food stamp qualifications by requiring recipients to work or be enrolled in a vocational training program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed changes that, if they'd been implemented previous year, would mean 3.7 million fewer people and 2.1 million fewer households would have received help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in an average month, according to a new study from the not-for-profit Urban Institute.

The move is one of three Trump administration efforts to overhaul the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, as the food stamp program is formally known.

USDA officials say the rule announced Wednesday would save roughly $5.5 billion over five years.

Under the proposed version of the work requirement rule, the USDA had estimated that about 750,000 recipients would lose benefits. "Even if adults are playing by all the rules and looking for work, they will now be much more likely to lose all of their nutritional assistance". States are now allowed to apply for waivers of the time limit, including areas with unemployment rates as low as 2.5%.

The new rule, which will take effect on April 1, 2020, will tighten the criteria for states applying for such waivers.

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The changes will move more "able-bodied" adults into the workplace, said US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

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.

The Trump administration's proposal to curtail states' ability to waive work requirements sparked a flood of outrage from aid groups, Democratic lawmakers, and ordinary people.

"Denying them basic food and nutrition is not the route that a fair and compassionate administration of either party should take", he said in a statement.

"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. Plus, fewer areas will qualify for waivers during widespread, national recessions, according to the center.

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