WASHINGTON – The Trump administration will push ahead with a proposal to tighten food stamp eligibility for people who receive certain noncash benefits from a federal welfare program, a move that could end aid for up to 3 million people.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the draft rule published in Tuesday's Federal Register will end what he and congressional Republicans say is a loophole that allows people with gross incomes above 130% of the poverty level to become eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and potentially qualify for food stamps through the program.
They can do so by receiving nominal assistance from the nation's federal welfare program such as a referral to services or a brochure from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), run by the Health and Human Services Department. The Government Accountability Office has raised questions about the use of TANF-financed referrals and brochures being used by states to trigger SNAP eligibility.
States operate the welfare and food stamp programs for the federal government. USDA officials say that by establishing tougher SNAP eligibility requirements for TANF recipients, they can reduce the number of SNAP applicants with gross incomes as high as 200% of the federal poverty level. For 2019, a family with a gross income of $51,500 would qualify under the 200% level.
A comment period will start Wednesday and run for 60 days.
SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, serves about 36 million people, the majority of whom are children, elderly or disabled.
Stacy Dean, vice president of food assistance policy for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the proposal as outlined "would take basic food assistance away from working families, seniors, and people with disabilities, and make it harder for struggling people to make ends meet. Instead of punishing working families if they work more hours or penalizing seniors and people with disabilities who save for emergencies, the president should seek to assist them with policies that help them afford the basics and save for the future."
People who receive noncash aid from TANF can become eligible for SNAP under a process known as broad-based categorical eligibility. Supporters say it streamlines the review process and reduces paperwork while providing food aid to people with inadequate incomes to cover living costs and provide food for their families.