News by VICE

The Trump administration is trying to made it harder for hundreds of thousands of people to get food stamps

Most able-bodied adults without kids already have to work for a certain amount of hours each month to collect food stamps from the federal program.

by Emma Ockerman
Dec 20 2018, 3:43pm

The Trump administration wants hundreds of thousands of poor, able-bodied adults to work more for their food stamps, according to a federal rule proposed by the government Thursday.

Most able-bodied adults without kids already have to work for a certain amount of hours each month to collect from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. States, however, can apply for a waiver so that people without jobs can collect food stamps outside of the exceptions that already exist, as long as the local unemployment rate is at least 20 percent greater than the national rate.

But the Trump administration wants the the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the food assistance program, to widen the work requirement in areas currently benefiting from low unemployment rates currently seen across the country. Under the proposal, the government would only waive the work requirement in areas where unemployment is above 7 percent. Nationally, the unemployment rate is at about 3.7 percent.

That means a city would have to have an unemployment rate of about 4.4 percent right now to qualify for the waiver, which would include places like Detroit, Michigan, and Fresno, California.

The proposal would not apply to pregnant women, people with disabilities, or the elderly. The Department of Agriculture estimated about 755,000 people could be affected. At the moment, 36 states and territories are waiving the time limit for some of their food stamp recipients, while Alaska, Louisiana, New Mexico and the District of Columbia have full, statewide exemptions, according to Politico.

“Long-term reliance on government assistance has never been part of the American dream,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a news release.

The USDA reported in 2016 that about 2.8 million able-bodied food stamp recipients without kids or people in their care weren’t working in 2016. Currently, the state closest to meeting the 7 percent unemployment requirement is Alaska, which holds the worst unemployment unemployment rate in the country at 6.4 percent as of October.

The public will have an opportunity to comment on the proposal for 60 days, once it’s entered into the federal register.

Since Congress failed to agree on passing a similar work requirement through its farm bill funding the country’s agricultural and food assistance programs, some Democrats criticized the Trump administration for seemingly going out of its way to cement work requirements.

“Administrative changes should not be driven by ideology. I do not support unilateral and unjustified changes that would take food away from families,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, said, according to the Washington Post.

Cover image: Carl Lewis in his market in Rankin, Pennsylvania, on Feb. 26, 2018. About half of Lewis' customers pay with benefits from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Donald Trump
food stamps
Department of Agriculture
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Sonny Purdue