The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program feeds over 36 million americans. Under a proposed plan by the Trump administration, some changes are coming that could effect approximately 688,000 of them after April 1, causing an uproar of rumors and facts all mixed together.
The plan is the first of three to be finalized and would “limit states from exempting work-eligible adults from having to maintain steady employment in order to receive benefits.” according to the Associated Press. Providing a savings of $5.5 billion according to the Agricultural department. Considering the increasing debt and budget deficits, the financials of the country are in need of some changes. The inability for both parties to work together and discuss a solution make this a bigger challenge.
The policy will affect able-bodied, working capable adults age 18-49 with no dependents. Under the current policy they will only be able to qualify for three months of assistance in a three year period unless they meet a 20 hour a week work requirement. Waivers can be provided on a case by case basis, and in states that can prove higher unemployment rates.
Certain states such as California have found ways to get waivers for the majority of their counties by manipulating the percentages through combining high and low counties together according to the National Review, a conservative magazine. In the past any place with a rate over one fifth the national average could earn a waiver. Eligibility is still available if there is a flat rate of 10% or higher.
The previous systems loopholes were considered “unfair and arbitrary” imposing time limits on some but not others base solely on where they happened to live. This created an issue in distributing the waivers to those genuinely in need, as opposed to certain states that were abusing the rules to gain more benefits. In reality the change will effect only 2% of those currently on SNAP. The change is intended to level the playing field and prevent those states from manipulating the map to boost numbers.
The new rule requires the city or county to have an unemployment rate of 6% or higher. The waiver will require approval by the governor and is good for one year.
A change that will hopefully move people “from welfare to work” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. “We want to encourage people by giving them a helping hand, but not an infinitely giving hand,”
Food Stamp programs have always been operated and intended for limited time periods to ease the transition after a job loss, a divorce, death or other life changing event that creates financial hardships.
One article stated they were never intended to become “a perpetual entitlement for adults who are fully capable of working and who live in areas with low unemployment.”
For those concerned about feeling the pinch, these policies were already in place during the Clinton -era, according to an article by Matt Palumbo
“Reforms spearheaded by the Republican majority during Bill Clinton’s presidency, Clinton-era welfare reform implemented long needed work requirements for able bodied persons receiving welfare. It turned out that the best welfare program was indeed a job, and welfare caseloads were cut in half as poverty rates fell. That changed during the most recent financial crisis, when the Department of Agriculture suspended those work requirements, as makes perfect sense in a time when millions cannot find work. However, that never changed back. It’s been up to the states to re-implement their work requirements, and the states that have saw similar results to those realized from Clinton-era reform. These states have seen massive reductions in food stamp usage among able-bodied adults; -85% in Alabama, -58% in Georgia, and -75% in Maine, among others.
Trump would like to bring back those work requirements by preventing states from exempting them.”
Alexandria Osacio-Cortez took to social media emphatically against the changes, stating that her family would have starved after her fathers death under these policies, but her father passed away during the time that the Clinton-era work requirements were in place, according to Palumbo who countered, “If there were any consequences to Trump’s plan, AOC would’ve already felt them in 2008.”
The proposed changes do not affect those with children or dependents, or those over 50.