Don’t Let the Trump Administration Take Food Away from 90,000 Pennsylvanians
The Trump Administration’s proposed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps) rule would toughen the time limit on food benefits for unemployed and underemployed people in high unemployment areas. If unable to provide documentation of sufficient work hours, they would lose SNAP eligibility after just three months. But hunger won’t help people find a steady job.
We need you to submit your comment expressing your strong opposition to the proposed rule during the 60-day public comment period has been extended to April 10, 2019. Every unique public comment that the government has to process and respond to will delay implementation of this rule. Enough public comments could defeat it altogether.
In order for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to review your comment individually, it is important that at least 1/3 of your comment be your own unique writing. That can be your own personal experiences using or receiving SNAP, or about how this would impact your community.
Here is some information to help you write your comment:
What is the rule change? Under the proposed rule, states will have less flexibility to define which economic areas are experiencing high unemployment and provide them with a waiver from SNAP work requirements for adults who do not have dependents in their household or a known disability. States will not be able to waive an area unless the unemployment rate is higher than 7%. Within the region, only McKeesport and New Castle would meet the new requirement.
USDA’s own estimate is that this rule will result in 755,000 people losing SNAP benefits across the country. When people have access to SNAP, they have less hunger, lower health care costs, better health outcomes, and experience less chronic stress.
USDA’s proposed rule hurts those who are working or trying to work. Most adults who are considered able to work and who receive SNAP are in fact either working, looking for work, or recently unemployed. However, many jobs have unpredictable schedules and do not guarantee the required 20 hours per week that the SNAP time limit rule requires in order to receive SNAP.
Imposing the SNAP time limit rule on regions with higher unemployment will not help people connect to work. The SNAP time limits rule requires states to supervise SNAP recipients’ job search; people are not allowed to look for work on their own. Furthermore, the federal government does not require states to offer employment and training spots to everyone who needs one to meet the SNAP work requirement. States are also not required to address barriers to employment such as transportation or housing.
In fact, the rule will make it harder for SNAP recipients to find good jobs. When rules like this go into effect, more SNAP recipients get pushed into state employment and training programs in order to keep their benefits. But the federal government doesn’t provide additional funding to cover increased program enrollment. So states typically spend their limited resources on low-quality training programs that serve as many people as possible rather than on more costly intensive training programs. In that way, this rule also robs programs that are proven to actually help connect people to careers, and replaces them with less effective programs.
USDA’s own estimate is that this rule will result in a loss of at least $15 billion in SNAP benefits over 10 years. Every $1 of SNAP benefits spent in the community generates $1.70 in economic activity. This rule will have a negative impact on our region’s economy by hurting retailers and their employees.
The USDA acknowledges that the proposed rule changes “have the potential for disparately impacting certain protected groups” – in other words it will disproportionately harm people of color. There is still plenty of evidence that job discrimination and disparate access to education and training opportunities keep people of color unemployed at higher rates than whites. USDA states they would have strategies to “monitor and mitigate” these impacts, but offer no concrete examples.
The USDA claimed that “the rule aims to restore the system to what it was meant to be: assistance through difficult times, not lifelong dependency.” Yet this rule prevents SNAP from being accessible through difficult times. Furthermore, the average SNAP recipient participates in the program for only 8 months, a clear indication that this program is already working as intended.