White House proposed new rule will cut 3.1M people from food stamp program

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials, the Trump administration will propose a rule Tuesday to reduce unwarranted access to food stamps, removing 3.1 million from the program and saving taxpayers $2.5 billion.

President Trump has argued that many Americans now using SNAP are not in need, given the strong economy and low unemployment.

Recommended changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would limit access to food stamps for households with savings and other assets. The goal is to end automatic eligibility for those already collecting other federal and state assistance.

According to Reuters, the residents of 43 states automatically become eligible for food stamps via SNAP if they receive benefits from another federal program, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). USDA officials said they want to require people who receive TANF benefits to pass income and asset reviews to qualify for free food from SNAP.

Monday night, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said during a conference call with reporters that some state governments have “misused this flexibility” and the proposal would “preserve the integrity of the program.”

“Some states are taking advantage of loopholes that allow people to receive the SNAP benefits who would otherwise not qualify and for which they are not entitled,” he said.

“SNAP should be a temporary safety net,” Perdue added.

An effort backed by the White House last year to pass new restrictions through the Farm Bill was blocked by Congress after a partisan debate that went on for months.

The USDA does not need congressional approval, however, to stop states from automatically allowing recipients of TANF benefits to become eligible for SNAP, said Brandon Lipps, a USDA acting deputy undersecretary. He told reporters on the conference call that current rules allow people to access SNAP benefits worth thousands of dollars for two years without going through adequate eligibility reviews.

“Unfortunately, automatic eligibility has expanded to allow even millionaires and others who simply receive a TANF-funded brochure to become eligible for SNAP when they clearly don’t need it,” Lipps said.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has reported data showing 42 million people, or 13 percent of the total U.S. population, used SNAP in fiscal year 2017.

The USDA will accept public comment on the proposed rule change.

 

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