A series of proposals from the Trump administration to change federal food benefits for low-income people would either reduce or eliminate benefits for millions of Americans, according to a new analysis by the Urban Institute.
The three possible changes make it harder for able-bodied people without dependents to stay on the program, restrict automatic state enrollment for people who receive other federal assistance and modify the way the program calculates net income and utility allowances.
If the changes had all gone into effect in 2018, the analysis shows, 3.7 million fewer people would have received food assistance in an average month and annual benefits would have decreased by $4.2 billion, according to the report.
The overall impact varies by state. Some states are more permissive about who can join the program, allowing able-bodied adults access to food benefits without being subject to work requirements in areas with high unemployment, for instance.
Most states use “broad-based categorical eligibility” to get around asset tests and lift the ceiling on the amount of money a household can make before they no longer qualify for help.
The final change would create a uniform utility allowance that can cover things like heating or cooling a home and the cost of telephone or basic internet service.
Some states with generous allowances would see benefits decrease, while others would see benefits increase as a result of the change.
If all were implemented, participation in the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” or SNAP, would drop by as much as 15 percent in 13 different states.
SNAP spending is extremely targeted; according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 92 percent of snap spending goes to buy food. It has been linked with improved health outcomes in children and adults, increasing productivity by reducing the number of sick days and reducing a household’s need to make tradeoffs between paying for health care and other necessities.
As the administration makes moves to cut spending on food assistance programs, it has spent billions shoring up farmers negatively impacted by the trade war with China and slashed taxes for the wealthiest Americans and businesses.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
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