The Trump administration has made a ruling that critics say will force many Americans into hunger.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is tightening work requirements for people on SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, saying that “able-bodied” Americans in the program will now have more of an incentive to get a job.
“Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand, but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand.”
NPR reports that the USDA is hampering states’ ability to waive a requirement that able-bodied adults without children work at least 20 hours a week or else lose their benefits.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) blasted the ruling, saying it would cut off a vital lifeline to hundreds of thousands of people -- individuals she said already have jobs.
“The USDA’s own data continues to show that the vast majority of SNAP recipients who can work, do,” DeLauro said in a written statement. “Make no mistake: This rule will weaken our country’s safety net by taking away food from hundreds of thousands of people.”
Pantries that feed the hungry are worried about the future after the federal government’s latest attempt to restrict food stamp access.
Jason Jakubowski, president and CEO of regional food bank Foodshare, said this move was the “latest in a litany of attacks against SNAP from this administration.”
When the 2018 Farm Bill passed, Congress headed off massive funding cuts to SNAP proposed by President Donald Trump. In July, the USDA announced it would stop states from allowing residents to get SNAP benefits if they were already enrolled in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
“For every meal that a food bank provides, SNAP is able to provide 12 meals, which means even if we wanted to, we could not fulfill the shortage in food that would occur from the severe reduction in SNAP benefits,” Jakubowski said.
One in eight Connecticut residents are SNAP recipients.
Jakubowski said the USDA ruling not only spells disaster for the hundreds of thousands of people directly affected by the decision, but it also could deliver a crippling blow to his nonprofit.
“When people lose their SNAP benefits, they’re going to come to a food bank, and I can tell you that Foodshare, nor any other food bank in the country, has enough food to be able to satisfy the needs that hinge on SNAP,” Jakubowski said.
In the event of a food shortage, Jakubowski said he might ask the government for help, or he could ask grocery stores for even more donations. But therein lies what Jakubowski called a “perfect storm.” With SNAP accounting for $46 million in the local grocery economy, he said store owners also would be in crisis mode.