A new rule approved by the Department of Agriculture this week could eventually lead to the removal of 3 million people from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP – commonly known as food stamps. The first phase of the rule change will affect an estimated 700,000 people. The reason, according to the Trump administration, is that unemployment is so low that this type of assistance for some lower-income workers isn’t necessary.
Lola Fadulu is a Washington-based reporter for The New York Times. She says this first rule change affects adults without disabilities and without children. Right now, those people can get SNAP benefits for three months while they’re unemployed. But some states make that period even longer – that is what the Trump administration wants to change.
“The department’s rule wants to make it more difficult for states to waive that time limit,” Fadulu says.
She says the federal government sees it as a way to encourage people who can work, to do so. But she says often people using SNAP already do work, they just earn low wages, or may be experiencing health issues or homelessness, and need extra help to afford food.
State waivers to limits on SNAP benefits were especially helpful during the Great Recession, starting in 2007.
The second phase of the rule change would result in 3 million people losing access to food stamps, about 1 million children losing access to free and reduced-price school meals and a $4.5 billion cut to the food stamp program over five years.
“That would result in 1 in 20 families seeing a change in their benefits,” Fadulu says.
Written by Caroline Covington.