A new Trump Administration proposal aims to put tighter restrictions on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that will effectively cut off millions of Americans from accessing food stamps.
The US Department of Agriculture wrote in a press release Tuesday that it will move to implement the new guidelines on who gets to receive the privileges, as the agency is “working to ensure benefits are provided with integrity to those most in need.”
However, tighter restrictions on the federal assistance program will limit the access against roughly 3 million Americans that are currently receiving the benefit. Consequently, those 3 million citizens will be cut off from access to food for themselves and their families.
As of April, 36 million Americans received food stamps, with an average monthly benefit of $121 per person, according to the Department of Agriculture. Due to an improving economy, enrollment to the program was down 2.5 million from last year.
The USDA is looking to block a loophole that currently allows federal states to grant SNAP benefits to individuals who are also enrolled in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). In other words, the proposed new restrictions will put an end to individuals who receive both federal and state assistance.
“For too long, this loophole has been used to bypass important eligibility guidelines effectively. Too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in the news release.
“The American people expect their government to be fair, efficient, and to have integrity – just as they do in their own homes, businesses, and communities. That is why we are changing the rules, preventing abuse of a critical safety net system, so those who need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it,” he added.
The issue is also emphasized in an instance where Rob Undersander, dubbed as the Minnesota Millionaire, enrolled in SNAP benefits for several months.
“The proposed rule would fix a loophole that has expanded SNAP recipients in some states to include people who receive assistance when they clearly don’t need it. In fact, the depth of this specific flexibility has become so egregious that a millionaire living in Minnesota successfully enrolled in the program simply to highlight the waste of taxpayer money,” the news release said.
About 40 million low-income people received SNAP benefits in 2018. Forty-three states routinely grant eligibility to low-income people already receiving other government benefits, without undergoing income or asset tests.
However, according to a 2018 Congressional Research Service report, “SNAP fraud is relatively rare, according to available data and reports.”
Other than the USDA’s plans on securing that food stamps only go to deserving people, the government can also cut back on costs. The Acting Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps said that the proposed rule would result in saving an average of $2.5 billion per year.
“This proposal will save money and preserve the integrity of the program,” Perdue said. “SNAP should be a temporary safety net.”
For a household to receive SNAP benefits under the proposed rule it must “receive TANF-funded cash or non-cash benefits valued at a minimum of $50 per month for at least 6 months,” or be eligible for other non-cash benefits like “subsidized employment, work supports, or childcare,” according to the news release.
People argue that the system that provides food stamps have been heavily misused and exploited by people who don’t need it. Additionally, some say that taxpayer money goes to the undeserving because the system offers the benefits too quickly.
Meanwhile, some say that people cannot rely on SNAP benefits alone and should still work their way out of the dependence from federal assistance programs.
In contrast, top Democrat on Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, begs to differ and calls the move ” another attempt by this Administration to circumvent Congress and make harmful changes to nutrition assistance that have been repeatedly rejected on a bipartisan basis.”
“This rule would take food away from families, prevent children from getting school meals, and make it harder for states to administer food assistance,” the Michigan Democrat said in a statement.
Instead, Stabenow suggests that “the Administration should stop undermining the intent of Congress and instead focus on implementing the bipartisan Farm Bill that the President signed into law.”