Trump Administration To Eliminate Food Stamps For Hundreds Of Thousands Of Poor Americans
The new rule, finalized by the Department of Agriculture on Wednesday, will restrict the ability of able-bodied, childless adults from receiving assistance from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for more than three months. While those recipients have long been forced to meet stringent work requirements after 90 days, states could previously offer waivers to low-income adults in areas of higher unemployment.
The rule change will eliminate that exemption, saving the federal government $5.5 billion over the next half decade, officials estimate. It will also bump roughly 688,000 Americans from the largely effective social program, according to USDA estimates.
The federal government received more than 140,000 public comments on the proposal, the majority of which urged against eliminating the exemption. The net income for a single-person household to quality for SNAP is $990.
In a statement, Agricultural Secretary Sonny Perdue, a Trump appointee with an estimated $5 million net worth, framed the change as a necessary intervention against a perceived culture of dependency.
“Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream,” Perdue said in a statement. “We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand.”
Experts say there is no evidence that the food stamps program disincentivizes work, as benefits gradually taper off as incomes increase.
The move comes amid a concerted crackdown on food stamp recipients. Earlier this year, the Trump administration proposed a different rule change that would eliminate “broad-based categorical eligibility,” potentially kicking more than 3 million people out of the program, including nearly one million low-income students. If that rule passed, 112,646 households in New York would lose access to their benefits, which average about $178 monthly, according to New Food Economy.
Advocates say that the implementation of this latest rule change will have similarly devastating effects.
“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,” said James D. Weill, president of the Food Research & Action Center. “In addition, the rule would harm the economy, grocery retailers, agricultural producers, and communities by reducing the amount of SNAP dollars available to spur local economic activity.”
The change is slated to take effect on April 1st, 2020, but could face a Congressional or court challenge before then.