Thursday, December 05, 2019

New SNAP restrictions limit states' power to extend payments during tough economic times

On Wednesday the Trump administration announced a final rule to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program with stricter work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents under the age of 50, commonly called ABAWDs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the change will save about $5.5 billion over five years and reduce the number of SNAP recipients by 688,000.

"Under current law, able-bodied adults without dependents can receive SNAP benefits for a maximum of three months during a three-year period, unless they’re working or enrolled in an education or training program for 80 hours a month," Laura Reiley reports for The Washington Post. "But states have been able to waive this time limit to ensure access to food stamps during the ups and downs of reentering the workforce. Before this rule, counties with an unemployment rate as low as 2.5 percent were included in waived areas. The new rule, which is set to take effect on April 1, 2020, will tighten the criteria for states applying for such waivers, making 6 percent the minimum unemployment rate for a county to receive a waiver."

The changes will take effect on April 1, barring court action, Reiley reports.

"The rule is one of three recent changes the Trump administration has proposed to food eligibility requirements, which taken altogether are expected to eliminate benefits for around 4 million people, or approximately 10 percent of those currently enrolled in the program," Andrea Noble reports for Route Fifty. "Other proposals would do away with automatic SNAP enrollments for those on welfare, and alter the way utility costs are factored into the SNAP benefit analysis. Those proposals are still being evaluated."
From 2012-2016, rural households were slightly more likely to receive SNAP benefits than their urban counterparts. A recent USDA report on the characteristics of SNAP households in 2018 shows that that trend has continued. According to the report, about 16% of households that received SNAP benefits in Fiscal Year 2018 were in non-metropolitan areas—over 3.1 million households. Almost 82% of households that received SNAP benefits in 2018 were in urban areas, more than 16 million households. The most rural households tended to be slightly larger and receive SNAP for slightly longer than urban or micropolitan SNAP households.

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