By: Ann Smajstrla, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program could cause more than 750,000 people to lose their benefits.
The changes, proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, would limit states’ ability to waive an employment requirement for SNAP, a program that gives people with a low income assistance to buy food, CNN reported.
Under current policy, all non-disabled, working-age adults without dependents must have jobs or be in training programs to receive SNAP benefits. Waivers are available for people with disabilities or those who live in high-unemployment areas.
The proposed changes would tighten the definition of areas where there are insufficient jobs. They would also require anyone who’s between the ages of 18 and 59 and able to work at least 20 hours a week to do so in order to qualify for SNAP benefits.
In a Wednesday hearing with the House Agriculture Subcommittee, researcher Karen Cunnyngham said the proposed changes would hit very poor Americans hard — those who make, on average, about $557 a month. She said 11% of them have jobs but don’t work enough to satisfy the White House’s proposed requirement.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, told the subcommittee that requiring people to work would not lead to them gaining employment.
Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, D-Connecticut, said she disagreed with the changes and believes encouraging education and job training would be a better approach.
“By ripping away a lifeline of an already vulnerable population, this administration is making yet another unconscionable attack on young people and poor people,” Hayes said.
Republicans on the subcommittee pushed back, saying employment helps bring people out of poverty.
“Work has dignity. Work is opportunity. Work is not a dirty word,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson, of South Dakota, the nutrition subcommittee’s ranking member. “Able-bodied adults cannot be kept on the sidelines while we witness historically low unemployment and a record-high 7 million open jobs.”
The federal government is taking public comments on the proposed changes here.