After Congress passed the $867 billion Farm Bill last week without the House’s “cruel” and “shameful” provisions to tighten work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—often called food stamps—the Trump administration is pushing to impose such restrictions through changes at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“This regulation blatantly ignores the bipartisan farm bill that the president is signing today and disregards over 20 years of history giving states flexibility to request waivers based on local job conditions.”
—Sen. Debbie Stabenow
While critics including Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter charged that the final Farm Bill “fails to fix critical problems in our food system,” she and many others expressed relief that it “does not include many of the horrible provisions from the House bill that would have gutted the safety net provided by SNAP.”
The USDA’s new proposed rule is supposedly a trade-off for President Donald Trump’s support of the Farm Bill, which he is expected to sign as early as Thursday. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue reportedly said on a press call that “the president has directed me to propose regulatory reforms to ensure those who are able to work do so in exchange for their benefits.”
Under current SNAP policy, although able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) can only receive three months of food benefits within three years if they don’t work at least 20 hours per week, states with high rates of unemployment can waive those restrictions and grant extensions to 15 percent of the ABAWD population. Unused exemptions can be saved for later.
That will all change if Trump has his way. As the Associated Press outlined:
Noting that by the administration’s own calculations, “the rule could jeopardize food assistance for some 755,000 Americans struggling to find stable work,” Rebecca Vallas, vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress (CAP), delivered a scathing takedown of the proposal on Twitter.
“The Trump [administration] is dressing up their cruel cuts in the language of work, claiming their mass starvation plan is about the ‘dignity of work.’ Well, I’ve got news for them. Making struggling workers hungrier won’t help them find work any faster.”
—Rebecca Vallas, CAP
“As we know, Trump doesn’t give up when he can’t get his cruel agenda through Congress,” she said. “The Trump [administration] is dressing up their cruel cuts in the language of work, claiming their mass starvation plan is about the ‘dignity of work.’ Well, I’ve got news for them. Making struggling workers hungrier won’t help them find work any faster.”
“In fact, taking basics like food away from people unable to meet strict work reporting requirements is *directly* counterproductive to the goal of work,” Vallas added. “Research shows that when workers have access to those basics, they’re better able to work and have higher earnings.”
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