The Trump administration proposed new rules to limit access to food stamps on Tuesday – a move that officials said would end benefits for about 3.1 million people – by closing a loophole that allows states to automatically enroll residents already receiving other welfare benefits.
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“This proposal will save money and preserve the integrity of the program,” Sonny Perdue, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, said in a conference call. “SNAP should be a temporary safety net.”
According to data provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 40 million low-income people participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2018. Under current rules, a family of three who uses them makes less than $28,000 per year. The newest change would result in an annual budgetary savings of $2.5 billion and restrict less needy people from qualifying for food stamps, according to multiple media outlets.
Currently, residents in 43 states who receive help from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, are automatically enrolled in the food-stamp program – including, famously, a Minnesota man who claims he qualified for food stamps for 19 months, despite owning significant assets, like a house.
Critics, including Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the proposed rule was an attempt to bypass Congress, which has blocked previous efforts by the White House to cut food stamps.
“This proposal is yet another attempt by this Administration to circumvent Congress and make harmful changes to nutrition assistance that have been repeatedly rejected on a bipartisan basis,” Stabenow said in a statement to The Washington Post. “This rule would take food away from families, prevent children from getting school meals, and make it harder for states to administer food assistance.”
At the end of 2018, the Trump administration scrapped new work requirements for some older food stamp recipients because of opposition from Democrats and many Senate Republicans.
Currently, able-bodied adults ages 18 to 49 without children are required to work 20 hours a week to maintain their SNAP benefits. The Republican-controlled House bill, however, would have raised the age of recipients subject to work requirements 59 from 49; it also would have required parents with children older than 6 to work or participate in job training