At the end of last week, the Trump administration announced a 5-year cut of $4.5 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known colloquially as ‘SNAP’ or ‘food stamps’. This cut would result in the loss of food stamps for over 8,000 households as the eligible population is redefined based on their household utility costs. This change would reduce the SNAP benefits for 19% of the receiving population while increasing benefits for 16% of the population based on the proposed metric.
The Department of Agriculture argues for the reorganization of SNAP around utility costs in order to preserve program “integrity” by “removing iniquities”. A study conducted in 2017 is referenced as highlighting inequities in the food stamps program as a result of the overestimation utility costs for certain beneficiaries that resulted from the lack of a standardized system. Critic Kate Leone of the Feeding America Program noted, however, that “millions of SNAP participants will have their benefits reduced or cut altogether” and that the program is comprised of vulnerable populations such as impoverished children and families, the elderly, and the disabled.
This cut to SNAP funding is third in line in recent Trump administration food stamp cuts. In December of 2018, the administration proposed a rule to put restrictions on when states could declare certain individuals exempt from food stamp eligibility requirements, namely restrictions on the ability for states to grant able-bodied individuals without dependents exempt from the SNAP requirement on such individuals to work 20 or more hours a week to be eligible to receive food stamps. This exemption is relevant for individuals with high time-constraining life factors, such as intensive job training.
Additionally and critically in July of this year, the Trump administration announced a rule to remove 3.1 billion people from SNAP benefits, approximately 9% of all benefiting households. It was argued in the press release by the Department of Agriculture that the revisions would “address program integrity issues”. Yet the legislation was criticised by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “an act of staggering callousness” that “will dismantle proven pathways out of poverty for millions”.
The most recent rule is currently proposed to take effect on December 2nd, to allow for the consideration of public commentary. The public is encouraged to provide feedback at the page for the rule on the Federal Registrar website.