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Proposed SNAP Rules: An "End Run around Congress?"

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In 2017, SNAP benefits kept 3.4 million Americans out of poverty. (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture/Flickr)
In 2017, SNAP benefits kept 3.4 million Americans out of poverty. (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture/Flickr)
 By Andrea Sears - Producer, Contact
December 21, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. – After failing to get deep cuts to nutrition assistance through Congress, President Donald Trump wants to get them by changing the rules.

Trump had backed a Republican plan that critics warned would have ended SNAP or food-stamp benefits for two million Americans and school meal access for 265,000 children.

Congress rejected those changes when it passed the Farm Bill last week. So on Thursday, Trump proposed new rules restricting states' ability to provide SNAP benefits to childless adults living in high-unemployment areas who are struggling to find work.

Rebecca Vallas, vice-president of the poverty team at the Center for American Progress, says the rules would force hundreds of thousands of unemployed SNAP participants to lose the help they need to put food on the table.

"Ultimately, he failed to gut food stamps in the Farm Bill and so now, he's sidestepping Congress and trying unilaterally to slash food assistance by fiat,” says Vallas. “And he's doing that just days before Christmas."

The administration points out that unemployment is at record low levels and says the new rules would save $15 billion over ten years.

Vallas insists a better approach would be to raise the federal minimum wage, set at $7.25 an hour for the past ten years. She says raising it to just $12 an hour would make a huge difference.

"That would save $53 billion in nutrition assistance over the coming decade, and it would do so by ensuring that workers earn enough to afford food,” says Vallas.

The administration's own numbers show that under the proposed rule change, more than 750,000 unemployed people would lose SNAP benefits.

Vallas adds research has shown that taking food away from workers who can't meet strict work-reporting requirements is counterproductive.

"When workers have access to basics like food and housing and health care, they're better able to work and they have higher earnings,” says Vallas.

Once the rules are published in the Federal Register, there will be a 60 day period for public comment before they could be put into effect.

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