Proposed changes to one of the country’s major welfare programs is meeting significant pushback. In February, the Trump administration suggested a rollback on SNAP benefits for able-bodied adults who are without dependents. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says the move is to encourage “fostering self-sufficiency” and stem the need for government aid. But a majority of the more than 47,000 people who commented on the rule revisionare not in favor.
The public comment period ended last week on a change that could have serious consequences for three-quarters of a million people. At present, adults without a serious disability and with no dependent children (ABAWD), are able to secure three months of SNAP benefits in a 36-month period, as long as the unemployment rate in their area is greater than 10 percent. The rule also allows those individuals to be granted an extension of benefits from the Department of Agriculture.
Under the administration’s new proposal, that extension would no longer exist. Food stamps would stop after three months for ABAWDs who don’t work, volunteer, or get job training for at least 20 hours a week.
“We believe the purpose of our welfare system should help people to become independent rather than permanent dependency,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently told the House Agriculture Committee. “We think we are helping people to, again, move into the dignity of work and the respect of providing for their families.”
Purdue also believes that given the low unemployment rate across the country, the reliance on government aid should also be lowered. Since taking control of the White House, the administration has worked to impose tighter work requirements on recipients of federal programs, such as housing vouchers and Medicaid.
The Agriculture Secretary has not revealed what additional measures will be put in place to help adults who have a hard time finding work due to past criminal records, mental illness, drug addiction, or other significant barriers that may prevent them from securing the 20 hours a week needed to qualify under the new revision.