Almost 700,000 Americans to lose food stamps under Trump work mandate

Some 688,000 food stamp recipients will have to find work by April or risk losing benefits as the Trump administration issues a final rule making it harder for states to get exemptions from work requirements

The administration of United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday said it will make it harder for states to keep men and women in the country's food stamp programme, a move that is projected to end benefits for almost 700,000 people.

The final rule will limit the ability of states to exempt work-eligible adults from having to obtain steady employment in order to receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Under current law, able-bodied adults without dependents can't receive SNAP benefits for more than three months during a three-year period, unless they're working or enrolled in an education or training program for 80 hours a month.

The move by the administration is the latest in its attempt to scale back the social safety net for low-income Americans.

It's expected to save $5.5 billion over five years, according to the agency. In addition to restricting time limit waivers, the USDA has proposed eliminating broad-based categorical eligibility, a measure that allows recipients of certain non-cash public benefits to automatically qualify for food stamps, and changing how utility costs are factored into benefit calculations. The rule is set to take effect April 1, 2020.

"Now, in the midst of the strongest economy in a generation, we need everyone who can work, to work", said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, citing the low 3.6% national unemployment rate. Previous year the administration announced it would allow states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients.

Over the past year the Agriculture Department has proposed three significant changes to the food stamp program. Perdue said that this new rule will help move more able-bodied adults into the workforce to fill jobs instead of encouraging reliance on SNAP.

But critics say the moves will hurt poor Americans.

"This is an unacceptable escalation of the administration's war on working families, and it comes during a time when too many are forced to stretch already-thin budgets to make ends meet", said Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Democrat and chair of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations.

But the new rules affect only the "poorest of the poor", said Ray Castro, health policy director for New Jersey Policy Perspective, a progressive research group. They receive about $165 in food stamps a month.



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