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Trump Administration to Tighten Food Stamp Requirements

Earlier this week, the Trump administration announced that it is looking to implement stricter requirements for food stamp recipients.

During a conference call on Thursday, Brandon Lipps, the head USDA administrator, stated that the agency is “interested in restoring work requirements in states where they have been waived in recent years because of high local unemployment rates.” Despite talks with legislators on the Hill, Lipps assured the public that “it [the agency] is not advancing any changes to the current program.”

Credit: USDA

Credit: USDA

Food stamps, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, currently provides its services to 40.3 million recipients around the country. In order to be eligible for SNAP, recipients must follow their individual state’s screening and application process.

Once admitted, in order to receive the benefits, current rules require adults without children to work. In addition, recipients can only receive aid for three months during a 36 month period unless they are working a minimum of 20 hours per week.

While these requirements have not changed since the previous Obama administration, Sonny Perdue, the U.S Agriculture Secretary, claims that many states are abusing SNAP’s waiver process. In areas where there poverty rates and unemployment is high, state agencies are allowed to request waiver forms for its recipients.

Credit: Pablo Martinez/AP

Credit: Pablo Martinez/AP

In an attempt to promote self-sufficiency, Perdue suggested that, “Too many states have asked to waive requirements, abdicating their responsibility to move participants to self-sufficiency.” Perdue also added that the USDA’s goal is “to move individuals and families from SNAP back to the workforce as the best long-term solution to poverty.”

Earlier this month, the Trump administration also proposed cutting the program by $17 billion by 2019 and replace food stamps with boxes of canned food. This is another effort by the administration to drive welfare reform.

Republicans seem to be on board with the administration to cut back on SNAP, Medicaid, and other social programs. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), is aiming to propose legislation in the coming year that cut SNAP spending by 20 percent over 10 years. Jordan’s plan has caught the liking of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who repeatedly voiced the need to cut back on welfare benefits in order to reduce the America’s deficit.

Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Democrats maintain that food stamps are necessary in helping low-income families. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the ranking Democrat on the Senate agriculture committee, argued that Trump’s proposal “isn’t a serious proposal and is clearly meant to be a distraction from this administration’s proposed budget that fails our families and farmers.”

Criticism for the administration’s attempt to distribute food boxes and baskets also heightened. Sara Abiola, an assistant professor at Columbia University, stated that the boxes “limited healthier choices”. SNAP also narrowed options to more canned foods and ready-to-eat products for recipients living in Native American reservations.

Despite the Trump administration’s intentions of cutting back on SNAP, the number of recipients have declined from 2013. According to the most recent statistics, the number of SNAP recipients have decreased roughly 2 percent from that year, from 47 million in 2013 to 40.3 million.