Posts tagged with "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)"

New Trump administration proposal excludes 755,000 Americans from food stamp program

December 24, 2018

Republicans in Congress are trying to ensure that indigent Americans remain at the bottom of the nation’s food chain.

In a USA Today op-ed published on December 20, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, noted that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) “allows millions of people who could work to continue to receive” food stamp benefits.

But all of that is about to change: “Today, at the direction of President Donald J. Trump, we are taking steps to restore integrity to SNAP,” Perdue wrote, “and move people toward self-sufficiency.”

In 2016, there were 3.8 million  such SNAP participants (about 8.8% of all participants)—with 2.8 million (or almost 74%) of them not working, Perdue noted, claiming, “This is unacceptable to most Americans and belies common sense, particularly when employment opportunities are as plentiful as they currently are.”

Perdue’s proposed USDA rule would take aim at “able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs),” ages 18 to 49, according to a report by Vox. Currently, this group must work or participate in an employment program for at least 20 hours a week in order to receive food stamps for more than three months over a three-year period.

However, until now, states have been able to waive this time limit under certain conditions—e.g., if their unemployment rate exceeds 10%, or if the rate is 20% above the national average in certain regions. Thirty-six states and territories currently have waivers for some adults without dependents.

Under the new proposal, eligibility for waivers would be greatly limited. Perdue explained, “Our proposed rule limits the availability of waivers for states and promotes work and self-sufficiency in the SNAP program. The proposal restricts waivers to areas where the unemployment rate exceeds 7%, which is when jobs are truly hard to find. It also eliminates the practice of some states which “gerrymander” multiple counties together that are not otherwise connected economically in order to maximize the reach of waiver requests. This practice leads to counties receiving waivers that would not independently qualify.”

As a result, of the 2.8 million SNAP participants who currently are not employed, 755,000 would lose SNAP benefits over three years if this rule becomes law.

According to Perdue, “… these regulatory changes by USDA will reward more Americans with the virtue of work, save hardworking taxpayers $15 billion over ten years, and give President Trump comfort enough to support a Farm Bill he might otherwise have opposed.”

However, while Republicans assert that benefits such as SNAP discourage people from working, according to the researchers who study SNAP, there’s no good evidence that it acts as a work disincentive. And there is also no evidence that imposing more stringent work requirements will “cure” poverty.

As Sarah Reinhardt, a food systems and health analyst for the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement: “The administration’s insistence on restricting access to food assistance, despite strong opposition from experts and ample evidence of the program’s effectiveness, is simply mean-spirited.”

Research contact: julia.belluz@voxmedia.com

Pets need food stamps, too!

February 5, 2018

Each year, over 40 million limited-income Americans rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help purchase food for themselves and their families. It is the most wide-reaching program in the domestic hunger safety net, helping to keep millions of families from starving. But what about their pets?

Now, a Mississippi man is petitioning the federal government to modify food stamp rules to make it easier for those with limited incomes to feed their dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, snakes, fish—or whatever type of animal is a member of the family.

According to a report in the Denver Post, Edward Johnston Jr. would rather give his dinner to his dog than watch the pooch go hungry. That is why the 59-year-old Mississippi resident is petitioning the Department of Agriculture to let him use food stamps on kibble and pet treats.

And he is not the only one: His food drive has attracted nearly 80,000 signatures on the popular petition site Care2, as well as a number of animal welfare organizations.

Indeed, the need is obvious, based on findings of the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey, commissioned by the American Pet Products Association, an industry group: Fully 14% of all pet-owning households make less than $25,000 per year—which, for a family of four, is roughly the federal poverty limit.

Food for  each dog and cat averages $235 per year, according to the Pet Products Association. According to the Denver Post, when families don’t have enough money to buy pet food, they frequently do what Johnston does: Share the people food. But it’s not the same, and it can harm pets.

Not only that, but food costs can prompt families trying to get by on limited incomes to surrender or re-home a pet. In a 2015 study by the ASPCA, 30% of low-income people who relinquished their pets said they would have kept them if they had a free or low-cost pet food option.

The problems are real, but food-stamp experts say it’s doubtful that changing SNAP could be part of the solution. SNAP has explicitly excluded pet food since its earliest authorization in 1964.

In lieu of government action, nonprofit organizations such as the ASPCA and Rescue Bank, a national emergency pet-food distributor, say they have stepped up their own efforts. Food pantries also have gotten in on the action.

However, ultimately, advocates say, such organizations cannot provide for all the low-income people struggling to feed dogs and cats. Until they can, people like Johnston face difficult choices.

“Being poor is hard enough,” the Post said he wrote in his petition, “without being expected to give up your companion.”

Research contact: apa2@apapets.org