USDA Proposal Seeks to Remove 3 Million Recipients from Food Stamps and Rescind School Lunch from Over 265,000 Children

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Originally Appeared in Presence Marketing News, August 2019
By Steven Hoffman

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on July 23 proposed new rules to limit access to food stamps for households with savings and other assets, a measure that could cut benefits to 3.1 million people participating in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). According to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue in a call with reporters, the proposed SNAP rules are aimed at ending automatic eligibility for those who are already receiving federal and state assistance. “What we’ve found is some states are taking advantage of loopholes. This proposal will save money and preserve the integrity of the program. SNAP should be a temporary safety net,” said Perdue. Secretary Perdue’s “rhetoric makes it sound like there are many households out there taking advantage of this so-called ‘loophole,’” reported H. Claire Brown in New Food Economy. However, Brown points out that the Congressional Research Office (CRO) found that only 4.2% of households that received SNAP benefits in 2016 were making more than the SNAP program income limit of 130 percent of the federal poverty line, or approximately $1,307 per month for an individual.

The majority of SNAP recipients—85%—fell below the poverty line. This suggests that the number of families that make a little more money and are grandfathered in by broad-based categorical eligibility is quite small, Brown asserts. The Trump administration estimates that the new rule will rescind food assistance from about 3 million of a total 36 million SNAP participants, or about 8% of the total. Based on CRO estimates, “this seems to indicate it’s possible that many of the people who stand to lose benefits are actually eligible for SNAP under the regular rules—they just haven’t gone through the process of filling out all the paperwork,” Brown writes. “This rule seems to be inserting another layer of red tape between people entitled to food assistance and their benefits,” she adds. In addition, Brown reports, USDA’s proposed changes could potentially take free school lunch away from 265,000 students. Students are automatically eligible for free lunch if they receive SNAP benefits. If automatic SNAP eligibility is uncoupled from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, children may lose their free lunch as a result. When asked about this on the press call, Brandon Lipps, administrator of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, said, “USDA is estimating all the children who will no longer be directly certified for school meals if their parents are not categorically eligible would qualify for free or reduced price meals through the regular application process.” What this means, Brown reports, is more paperwork for parents.

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