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WI Among States with SNAP Waiver Targeted by Trump Administration

In Wisconsin, SNAP benefits are distributed through the state's FoodShare program. (ideastream.org)
In Wisconsin, SNAP benefits are distributed through the state's FoodShare program. (ideastream.org)
December 5, 2019

MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin and more than 30 other states could have a harder time seeking additional waivers for tougher work requirements under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, following rule changes announced Wednesday by the Trump administration.

The rule in question deals with able-bodied adults without children. They're required to work at least 20 hours a week or lose their benefits.

But states have been allowed to seek exemptions for areas with high unemployment.

The move by the administration raises the threshold for those waivers.

"The Trump administration – they premise it as though it is supposed to promote work but it will not do that,” says Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the advocacy group Coalition on Human Needs. “It simply makes life harder for them."

In a statement, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the administration wants to "encourage people by giving them a helping hand, but not allowing it to become an infinitely giving hand."

According to the USDA, four states or territories have statewide waivers, and 32 states, including Wisconsin, have partial waivers.

Congress rejected a similar rule change when the most recent Farm Bill was adopted. Weinstein says it troubles her to see continued attempts to reduce the scope of the program, even when such attempts have been thwarted.

"There have been hundreds of thousands of comments against those,” she points out. “Congress rejected them. But still, the administration persists in dumping on some of our most vulnerable people instead of trying to help them."

In 2018, SNAP benefits were distributed to about 644,000 Wisconsin residents. It's unclear yet how many of those recipients would be affected by the rule change, which is scheduled to go into effect next spring.

Nationwide, the change is expected to eliminate benefits for nearly 700,000 adults.

Disclosure: Coalition on Human Needs contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Census, Children's Issues, Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - WI