The Trump administration has proposed a new rule that would limit access to food stamps, effectively cutting more than three million people from the program. The federal program currently provides food stamps to more than 38 million Americans.
The Department of Agriculture’s proposal would end automatic enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for low-income families who receive welfare benefits. The government claimed that automatically enrolling families “compromises program integrity and reduces public confidence that benefits are being provided to eligible households.”
The proposed new rule would close what some consider a loophole that allows some states to give food stamps to individuals with savings and other assets, The New York Times reported. Forty-three states and territories —including the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands — allow people to easily qualify for food stamps if they are already eligible for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
Under the new rule, families who have assets valued at more than $3,500 or incomes above 130 percent of the federal poverty line would generally be disqualified from food stamps and would only be eligible for SNAP if they have been receiving TANF for more than six months. The proposed changes would also restrict what kinds of noncash assistance received under TANF make families eligible for food stamps.
According to Reuters, eliminating these practices would reduce food stamp spending by approximately $2.5 billion a year.
Republicans claim that many food stamp recipients do not need the federal assistance and argue that beneficiaries can cheat the system. “For too long, this loophole has been used to effectively bypass important eligibility guidelines,” Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “Too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint.”
In 2018, a self-described millionaire in Minnesota claimed he legally qualified for food stamps and collected them to prove how easily the program could be abused. Rob Undersander, who claimed he had significant assets, told lawmakers that he and his wife collected around $6,000 in food stamp benefits over the span of 19 months.
“I [collected food stamps] primarily to make a point and raise public awareness to ensure that the truly needy receive the benefits that are available, and that’s not happening right now,” Undersander told MPR News. He said he is not opposed to SNAP but wants it to go to families that actually need the assistance.
Representative Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) cited Undersander’s case as justification for the proposal, according to The New York Times. “As a member who personally met with a millionaire that took advantage of the food stamp program to prove a point, I can tell you: Reform is certainly needed,” Meadows said.
However, policy experts said the new rule would increase the risk of food insecurity for families that are already struggling. Ben Olinsky, the senior vice president of Policy and Strategy at the Center for American Progress, said the rule would punish families who are attempting to save for the future and “disproportionately hurt families with children, seniors, and disabled people.”
“If what he was doing wasn’t so extraordinarily cruel, it would be ironic that President Trump long promised to help ‘forgotten men and women,’” Olinsky said in a statement.
“But Trump’s continued assaults on struggling workers and families, coupled with his tax law written to help the extremely rich, make his real priority clear: taking from those who have the least to give to those who have the most.”
Democratic leaders were also outraged by the proposed rule, which Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called “cruel, ideological, and inhumane.”
“The administration’s latest act of staggering callousness would steal food off the table of working families and hungry children, and dismantle proven pathways out of poverty for millions,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed in a statement cited by The New York Times. “The administration’s proposal is both cruel and counterproductive.”
The House of Representatives failed in 2018 to implement work requirements on able-bodied adults hoping to receive SNAP assistance. According to The New York Times, there is a 60-day public comment period before the administration can proceed with implementing the proposed rule.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.