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Anti-Poverty Groups Slam Administration's Changes to Food Assistance

About 40 million Americans rely on the SNAP program for food assistance, including more than 400,000 Nevadans. (Nevada Department of Agriculture)
About 40 million Americans rely on the SNAP program for food assistance, including more than 400,000 Nevadans. (Nevada Department of Agriculture)
July 24, 2019

CARSON CITY, Nev. - Groups that advocate for the working poor are speaking out against a new policy proposal from the Trump administration to make it much harder for people to get food stamps via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program.

Right now, if you qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, states are allowed to automatically enroll you in SNAP. Under the new rule, TANF recipients would have to undergo another financial review before accessing SNAP.

Autumn Zemke, co-chair of the Northern Nevada Working Families Party, said this is just another hurdle - and more suffering for families already struggling.

"I think it's an attack specifically on working-class folks, in our state and across the United States," she said. "Taking away the few bucks that somebody's getting in food stamps every month if they're making $30,000 a year, people are going to go hungry, even more than they already are."

As of April, almost 420,000 people in Nevada received SNAP benefits, a drop of 4.4% from April 2018. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the change would push more than 3 million people off the program, and save the government $2.5 billion a year.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, in announcing the policy, said it would fix a loophole that allows some people to take benefits they don't need. But Zemke countered that the rising cost of living means more and more working poor families are finding they can't afford basic necessities.

"Working a minimum wage in Nevada for $8.25 or $7.25, you can't even afford a place to live," she said. "You can't even rent a room and make that much, let alone feed yourself or your family."

The maximum a single person with no kids can make to qualify for SNAP is $1,247 a month, and the maximum benefit is $194 a month. Most people who get SNAP benefits have to work at least 20 hours a week to qualify.

Public comments about the proposal are being taken at regulations.gov for 60 days.

The SNAP Rule proposal is online at fns.usda.gov.

Suzanne Potter/Dallas Heltzell, Public News Service - NV