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Trump Administration May Get Its Food Stamps Wish After All

USDA proposal would tighten waiver eligibility on work requirements
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2018 6:48 AM CST
In this Feb. 26, 2018, photo, a worker, left, helps a customer in a market in Pittsburgh.   (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(Newser) – It may soon be more difficult to get food stamps if you're jobless. The Washington Post reports the USDA has a new proposal that would tighten eligibility for food assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and it's tied to unemployment. Under the current system, most adults who don't have dependents have to prove they're working or training to work at least 20 hours a week to get food stamps for more than three months over a three-year period. States can avoid that mandate, however, if areas meet certain criteria, including having an unemployment rate 20% greater than the national rate (currently 3.7%—with 4.44% being 20% greater). Under the administration's new proposal, that waiver would only apply in areas where the unemployment rate is above 7%. Who stands to be affected: about 755,000 of the 2.8 million dependent-less adults who don't have jobs, per USDA stats.

That many people out of work is "unacceptable" to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, he noted in a press call, particularly with the "plentiful" employment opportunities he says now exist. He notes the mandate—which wouldn't affect pregnant women or the elderly—would save about $15 billion over 10 years and would "[restore] the dignity of work" to those affected, as well as be "respectful" to taxpayers, per CNN. The executive proposal would circumvent a $870 billion farm bill set to cross President Trump's desk this week, legislation that contains no such change in work requirements. Democratic legislators are pushing back. "Congress writes laws, and the administration is required to write rules based on the law," says Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow. (The Trump administration once pushed for "food boxes.")

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