On Thursday, the Department of Agriculture announced a regulatory proposal that would impose stricter work requirements on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and strip states of their ability to make decisions based on local job conditions. The announcement comes after a Republican failure to impose those restrictions within the Farm Bill.
In Connecticut, there are roughly 378,000 people enrolled in the SNAP program. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro represents Connecticut's 3rd District where 35,000 people receive SNAP benefits. She says the changes "betray decades of bipartisan support" for the program.
"What the USDA, what the Trump administration, is prepared to do is jam through regulations that punishes people for being poor and who are hungry. " DeLauro said.
Currently, states can waive work requirements for up to two years in areas with high unemployment rates due to a lack of jobs. According to Connecticut's Department of Social Services, 114 towns and cities utilize waivers based on their economic conditions. Imposing those regulations would mean that an estimated 39,000 people could be cut off from nutrition assistance after receiving three months of SNAP if the federal regulations are enacted.
Nationwide, roughly 755,000 people could lose food stamp benefits if the waiver restrictions are implemented, according to Department of Agriculture officials. The changes would also prevent states from "banking" or retaining unissued waivers for future years.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said the USDA's proposal could save $15 billion over 10 years and "restore integrity" to the SNAP program.
"When Republicans talk about the need to reform SNAP, it's a code— it really is—and that's for cutting billions of dollars from the program," DeLauro said.
The proposal also seeks to change work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents, known as ABAWDs. ABAWDs are 18-49 year-olds who are not elderly, pregnant or living with a disability. Currently, in order to receive SNAP benefits beyond three months, ABAWDs are required to work 20 hours per week or be enrolled in a job training program. The DSS estimates 143,000 ABAWDs living in Connecticut.
On Thursday, following the announcement of the USDA proposal, DeLauro introduced a bill called the Protect SNAP Act which seeks to prevent the changes from being enacted. The USDA has a 60-day public comment period for the proposal.