Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the proposed rule published Tuesday in the Federal Register would close a loophole that states have used to bypass eligibility requirements, allowing SNAP benefits - also known as food stamps — to go to people who don’t need them. The Agriculture Department says some states offer benefits to people who call hotlines or get informational brochures describing social services, without “conducting a robust eligibility determination.” To illustrate the system’s flaws it pointed to the case of a Minnesota millionaire who secured food stamps.
“The American people expect their government to be fair, efficient, and to have integrity — just as they do in their own homes, businesses, and communities," said a statement from Perdue. "That is why we are changing the rules, preventing abuse of a critical safety net system, so those who need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it.”
Rep. Marcia Fudge condemns proposed food stamp changes at agriculture subcommittee hearing
Warrensville Heights Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge said the U.S. Department of Agriculture's proposed changes to the food stamp eligibility of able bodied adults without dependants fails to consider hardships like homelessness, undiagnosed mental illness, learning disabilities and poor health that can keep them from "finding and securing long-term employment."
Fudge, who chairs the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight and Government Operations, said the proposal would kick millions of seniors, children, working families and the disabled off SNAP, and it ignores the “clearly stated will of Congress,” as similar proposals were rejected in debates over the 2014 and 2018 farm bills. She said states need flexible eligibility "to provide critical assistance to people in need.
“As I’ve said before, Republicans love talking about states’ rights and the importance of state flexibility, but when it comes to putting that rhetoric into practice for SNAP, they take the opposite position,” said a statement from Fudge. "The ugly truth no one in this Administration wants to admit is this: the economy isn’t working for our most vulnerable. They still need a hand up, not a heartless, mean-spirited policy.”
Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown posted a statement on Twitter that called the proposal “shameful,” and Niles-area Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan said it would increase food insecurity throughout the country.
“President Trump and the GOP gave a tax cut to Wall Street and the wealthy at the expense of everyone else and now they want to take away food from working families — away from children,” said Brown.
The Department of Agriculture says its new proposal would confer automatic eligibility for SNAP to households that get Temporary Assistance for Needy Families-funded benefits valued at a minimum of $50 per month for at least six months. It would limit other programs that automatically provide SNAP eligibility to subsidized employment, work supports or childcare. USDA estimated that about 8 percent of SNAP recipients nationwide would lose benefits if the proposal is implemented.
A statement from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said it’s awaiting “further details and guidance from the USDA to determine what impact the proposed rule change would have on Ohio SNAP recipients."
Ohio Association of Foodbanks Executive Director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt said her organization is concerned the change could have catastrophic effects on low-income working families with children who are eligible for free breakfasts and lunches in school. She said the policy the USDA wants to change has helped streamline eligibility across assistance programs, and that doing so “could exacerbate the poverty problem and increase food insecurity for poor children.”
She said her organization will mobilize to oppose this “misguided rule.”
“Let’s not make the lives of the poor even more miserable,” said Hamler-Fugitt. “The economy is thriving for some, but it is not thriving for a growing number of people. This would hurt the poorest of the poor, seniors, veterans and working families.”
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