Published: Thu, December 05, 2019
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Trump Administration Tightens Food Stamp Work Requirements

Trump Administration Tightens Food Stamp Work Requirements

Under current law, able-bodied adults without dependents can't receive SNAP benefits for more than three months during a three-year period, unless they're working or enrolled in an education or training program for 80 hours a month.

Almost 700,000 Americans will lose their access to food stamps under new rules formalized by the Trump administration, the Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday.

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. In addition to restricting time limit waivers, the USDA has proposed eliminating broad-based categorical eligibility, a measure that allows recipients of certain non-cash public benefits to automatically qualify for food stamps, and changing how utility costs are factored into benefit calculations.

The new rule would make it harder for states to receive those waivers by tightening the definition of areas where there are insufficient jobs, narrowing the geographic areas of waivers and limiting their duration, among other provisions.

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".

"This administration is out of touch with families who are struggling to make ends meet by working seasonal jobs or part time jobs with unreliable hours", said Stabenow, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry.

The administration has sought to tighten requirements for food stamps without congressional approval after the US Congress blocked a Trump-backed effort to pass new restrictions through the Farm Bill previous year.

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.

"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.

Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-2nd Dist., said he would move to overturn the food stamp rule under the Congressional Review Act, which gives lawmakers the power to reject new federal regulations.

"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", he said.

If enacted, all able-bodied recipients without children under the age of six would have to meet the work requirements. "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".

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