The Trump administration unveiled a plan yesterday (December 19) that could make it harder for more than half a million Americans to eat. The policy change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) previously failed to pass in Congress, but it has now been pushed through by a federal agency rewriting the rules.
Per The Washington Post:
The country’s food assistance program, which is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, already requires most adults without dependents to work if they collect food stamps for more than three months in a three-year period. But USDA regulations allow states to waive the requirement in areas with unemployment rates that are at least 20 percent greater than the national rate.
Under the new policy, the waiver will only apply in areas where unemployment is above 7 percent. The national unemployment rate is 3.7 percent, meaning these areas experience unemployment at nearly double that. According to The Post, this change will potentially affect up to 755,000 people.
The proposed changes were made by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the changes will save taxpayers roughly $15 billion a year and “restores the dignity of work” to many. Reports The Post:
Congressional Democrats quickly slammed the plan and questioned whether the administration had a legal basis to authorize it.
“Congress writes laws, and the administration is required to write rules based on the law,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the top ranking Democrat on the Senate agriculture committee. “Administrative changes should not be driven by ideology. I do not support unilateral and unjustified changes that would take food away from families.”
Approximately 38.6 million Americans receive food stamps through SNAP. According to a 2016 report from the USDA, 38.9 percent of households receiving benefits were White; 24.9 were Black; 11.8 were Latinx; 2.8 were Asian and 1.1 were Native American.
These numbers go against the popular racist discourse that Black women are the majority of food stamp recipients. The Reagan era did much to spread this misinformation in the 1980s through the use of the Welfare Queen stereotype against Black women, and it continues today.
Policy analysts and several lawmakers maintain that cutting people out of the food stamp program will be devastating to families. Writes The New York Times: “Our national policies have long reflected, imperfectly, the moral imperative that children deserve adequate food. Until now…. And because a majority of the people at risk [of losing benefits] are in households with children, the result would be more hungry kids.”
The proposed changes will be published in the Federal Register, and the public will have 60 days to comment.