Cutting SNAP Benefits Will Negatively Affect Hundreds Of Thousands Of Americans

Supermajority Education Fund

December 5, 2019

A new work requirement finalized by the Trump administration in early December will cause approximately 688,000 people to lose access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) when the changes take effect on April 1, 2020.

“We’re taking action to reform our SNAP program in order to restore the dignity of work to a sizable segment of our population and be respectful of the taxpayers who fund the program,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said after announcing the change.

The new rule would apply to childless Americans between the ages of 18 and 49 who are not disabled. While existing United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules require single adults to work at least 20 hours a week to qualify for SNAP, states with high levels of unemployment have been permitted to grant waivers to counties with unemployment rates as low as 2.5 percent. The new rule will limit those exceptions by raising the minimum unemployment rate to 6 percent.

Hunger advocates stress that SNAP was never intended to be linked to employment and that limiting access to food assistance has not been proven to help get recipients back to work.

“The reality of hunger in America is that a job is no longer a balm against poverty and hunger,” Margarette Purvis, President, and CEO of Food Bank For New York City, said in a statement to Supermajority News. “The Administration’s latest attack creates hunger, not a work incentive. Hunger is no more likely to make a better job candidate than a low-wage job is to get someone off the pantry lines.”

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities notes that unmarried and childless SNAP recipients are disproportionately older women. While 46 percent of all single SNAP recipients are female, a third of those are over 40 years old. The CBPP reports single SNAP recipients also tend to regularly cycle in and out of employment, with most working for at least six months out of the year. “Limited education, lack of training, and a sporadic work history make it difficult to compete for anything other than low-skill, low-wage jobs that do not lift [SNAP recipients] out of poverty,” the CBPP writes on its site.

The change also comes at a time when American food banks are experiencing increasing demand for services. A recent Food Bank For New York City report found that 85 percent of its food pantries and soup kitchens saw an increase in new visitors in 2018. At the same time, the organization’s locations often run out of the ingredients necessary to provide clients with balanced meals. An increase in adults that no longer qualify for benefits will strain local organizations more, advocates say.

“No amount of charity can make up for the harm caused by cruel policies,” said Purvis. “This administration is already straining the resources that help New Yorkers put food on the table — this new policy is another strategic move in their war on Americans living in poverty.”