The Hill is reporting that 14 states and two major cities are suing the Trump administration over cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The new guidelines for food stamps will save taxpayers 5.5 billion dollars over the next two years. Additionally, the change in the program rules will result in about 750,000 people losing food stamps.
The administration is tightening up on the ability for states to get waivers from the current limits on food stamp eligibility. Right now, there are work requirements for folks who are between 18 and 49 years of age, who can work, and are not taking care of a child six or younger. These requirements involve working 20 hours a week or participating in a job-training program. If these requirements are not met, then there is a limit of three months of food stamps during a three-year period.
States frequently apply for waivers from these limits. However, the Trump administration has made the waiver rules stricter. Under new rules, states can apply for a waiver only if a county has an unemployment rate of six percent or higher.
USA Today reports the rationale for this change, given by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. He said,
Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch. Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream. We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand.
What is the basis for the suit? Politico states,
The lawsuit, filed Thursday by mostly Democratic-led states, argues that USDA unlawfully limited states’ discretion to exempt certain adults from work requirements for an extended period of time based on local employment conditions.
Food stamps are not meant to be a lifestyle. They are supposed to bridge the gap of tough times. They should not replace work.
I personally do not have an issue with the working poor receiving food stamps. Key word here is WORKING. I would much rather the working person get food stamps than one who, though able to work, refuses to. Ideally, government would not be in the food stamp business at all and private charities would meet the needs of the community. However, we are clearly not living in an ideal world.
If these states that are suing really want to give food stamps to more people, then they should fund it out of their own state budgets.
The changes to the program sound reasonable and responsible. Now we must wait for the courts to hammer out the legality of the rule change.