Imagine receiving a well-deserved raise at work, only to discover that it drives your struggling family further into financial distress. For working families with incomes hovering near 130% of the poverty line, this could become reality if the Trump administration’s newly published rule change goes into effect.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) proposes to close a “loophole” that allows states to modify some of the federal government’s eligibility requirements for SNAP (formerly known as food stamps). In North Carolina, 106,000 people, including 38,000 children, would lose access to food assistance under the new rule, according to NC Policy Watch.
North Carolina is one of 43 states and territories that leverage broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE) to extend food assistance to low-income working families who otherwise might not qualify under strict federal guidelines. Advocates such as the North Carolina Justice Center state that BBCE is an important tool for moving families out of poverty; eliminating it would punish low-income families for working hard and saving money.
In North Carolina, SNAP-recipient families are not limited to the federal threshold of $2,250 in assets or savings, thereby allowing them to save money in order to weather financial emergencies. Additionally, North Carolina families who experience a small increase in income are less likely to fall off the “benefits cliff,” since SNAP benefits can be gradually reduced rather than abruptly eliminated as stipulated by federal rules.
In its proposed rule, the USDA claims that states are approving families for SNAP benefits without checking their income or need for assistance. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “The claim is incorrect.” Their statement, Misguided Trump Administration Rule Would Take Basic Food Assistance From Working Families, Seniors, and People with Disabilities asserts that, “SNAP has some of the most rigorous program integrity standards and systems of any federal program.”
Nationwide, about 36 million people received SNAP benefits in April of this year. The USDA’s proposed rule would remove about 3.1 million of current beneficiaries from the program.
Public comment on the rule can be submitted via http://www.regulations.gov. Deadline for submission is September 23, 2019.