Food stamp program rule change would require more consumers to work for benefits

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The new policy will cause nearly 700,000 current SNAP recipients to lose their benefits

A Trump administration plan announced Wednesday will require more food stamp recipients to work in order to receive a helping hand from the government. 

Under the policy change, which has been finalized and will go into effect on April 1, 2020, the ability of states to waive current work mandates for “able-bodied” adults with no dependents who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP) benefits will be limited. 

The rule change is likely to cause nearly 700,000 SNAP recipients to lose their benefits. 

Stricter criteria

Current work requirements state that low-income adults with no dependents can receive SNAP benefits for a maximum of three months during a three-year period if they don’t meet the 20-hour per week work requirement.

“States have been able to waive this time limit to ensure access to food stamps during the ups and downs of reentering the workforce,” The Washington Post reported. “Before this rule, counties with an unemployment rate as low as 2.5% were included in waived areas.” 

The new rule will “tighten the criteria for states applying for such waivers, making 6% the minimum unemployment rate for a county to receive a waiver,” the Post added. 

Cutting costs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which announced the rule change on a call with reporters Wednesday, said it estimates that the changes will save roughly $5.5 billion over five years.

“At USDA, our informal motto is ‘Do Right and Feed Everyone,’” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue wrote in a USA Today column before the rule change was finalized. “With these proposed improvements, we will ‘do right’ by the taxpayers and restore the dignity of work to the able-bodied who receive SNAP benefits. And, we will ‘feed everyone’ by ensuring the health and stability of SNAP for those who truly need it.” 

Purdue added that, “in the midst of the strongest economy in a generation, we need everyone who can work, to work.” The rule, he said, “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 has two additional changes planned for the federal food stamp program. Another regulation currently in the works would limit the rules that determine who is eligible for assistance. It could result in upwards of three million people losing their benefits and leave close to half a million children without access to free school meals. A third modification would change how allowances for utility expenses are calculated. 

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