About 750,000 people could lose their food stamps later this year under a Trump administration proposal aimed at getting able-bodied people back to work.
The proposal is listed on a federal regulatory website for public comment, which will end Tuesday. So far, thousands of comments have been posted; most oppose the rule change.
“Stop this regulation. It does nothing but hurt the people this program is intended to help,” one comment said.
“The vast majority of people who don’t work do this because they cant,” said another. “In a country that can give massive tax breaks to the ultra rich, it is unconscionable that our government carries out a war on the poor.”
The Trump administration contends that many are abusing the system and the rule change could save taxpayers $15 billion over 10 years. It has emphasized that the changes do not apply to pregnant women or the disabled.
Federal law already requires unemployed, able-bodied adults without dependents to find work within three months, or risk losing their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, assistance. Some states make exceptions in areas of high unemployment, allowing some to continue receiving food stamps without working, volunteering or receiving job training. The proposal would make those state waivers more difficult to receive by expanding work requirements. Under the rule, only U.S. locations with 7 percent unemployment or higher could continue to waive the requirements for adults between 18 and 49.
In 2016, the government estimated there were about 4 million adults in that category — three-quarters of whom were out of work.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said those receiving benefits should be able to find jobs now that the national unemployment rate is at a historically low level. Purdue emphasized recently the purpose of the welfare system “should help people to become independent rather than permanent dependency.”
The move is part of President Donald Trump’s effort to impose stricter work requirements for those who receive federal assistance. Last week, a federal judge blocked two states from imposing new requirements to receive Medicaid.
Some believe the SNAP changes might also end up in court.
“The USDA didn’t provide any evidence to show that taking away food assistance from 755,000 people will help those people get jobs,” Louise Hayes, an attorney with Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, said. “So, their final ruling might be open to legal challenge.”
The proposal has strong support among Republican lawmakers and voters, but most of the public comments on the federal website have so far opposed the tougher rules.
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