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SNAP Program Changes Would Hit Wisconsin Harder

About 119,000 people in Wisconsin stand to lose SNAP food assistance if the USDA changes the rules for what is known as categorical eligibility. (Unsplash)
About 119,000 people in Wisconsin stand to lose SNAP food assistance if the USDA changes the rules for what is known as categorical eligibility. (Unsplash)
September 13, 2019

MADISON, Wis. – If eligibility changes proposed for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are implemented, new research says Wisconsin could be hit harder than any other state.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to end categorical eligibility, the practice of allowing families who receive other federal aid known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to qualify automatically for food benefits as well.

But the policy research group Mathematica.com says that change would impact almost one in five Wisconsin SNAP recipients, and 3.6 million people nationwide.

Sarah Lauffer, senior research programmer with Mathematica.com, says Wisconsin losses would be greater because the state already accepts more applications.

"We're seeing an estimate of 18% of their SNAP households that would lose benefits,” says Lauffer, “and that's equivalent to about 119,000 people."

She says the research indicates no other state has a higher percentage of households at risk of losing SNAP benefits, although North Dakota comes close, as 17% its SNAP recipients could be dropped. The research found 11 states would feel little or no impact.

The comment period before possible implementation of the eligibility changes runs through September 23. Lauffer points out that it's Wisconsin's current application guidelines that are putting more of its recipients at risk.

"They're increasing their gross income threshold from 130%, which is the federal threshold for SNAP eligibility,” says Lauffer. “They're increasing that to 200%."

The USDA characterizes the eligibility change as "closing a loophole." Lauffer says more than 21 million households receive SNAP benefits nationwide.

Dale Forbis, Public News Service - WI