How to weigh in on proposed cuts to food stamp program

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Food stamp benefits for millions of Americans may be eliminated if a new rule proposed by the Trump administration goes into effect. 

Supporters say the proposal could save the federal government more than $9 billion over five years, but some say the savings would actually cost people in need vital assistance when it comes to feeding themselves.

SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, was designed to allow states to automatically enroll people, easing the paperwork involved with audits of each and every potential SNAP recipient. So, if you qualified for benefits through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, that person could automatically get food stamps. 

The proposed rules change is designed to make sure people with at least a couple thousand dollars in the bank can no longer receive that assistance.

Supporters say it closes a loophole that allows some affluent people to qualify for SNAP.  Critics say it will hurt the elderly most of all because many older recipients maintain rainy-day funds to cover unexpected expenses, oftentimes related to medical conditions. 

Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, says the rule change will save taxpayers money and allows people who deserve the assistance to get it.

“This loophole in the law basically circumvents that and allows a lot of higher-income people into the program.  That’s a waste of money and in the long-term, it takes money away from the poor,” Rector said.

The people most likely to suffer as a result of the change would be low-income working families and elderly individuals according to Elaine Waxman, a Senior Fellow with the Urban Institute. 

The new rule could eliminate food stamp benefits for 3.1 million people in the U.S an estimated 8 percent of the people enrolled in the program. Waxman says fraud accounts for a “very, very small percentage” of the SNAP payouts.

“What we know from the USDA’S own data, the federal agency that administers SNAP, that the number of people who receive SNAP, who don’t have income at the federal poverty level or below is very, very small and less than 1 percent of all benefits go to people who have incomes a bit above that. So we have no reason to believe that that is anything other than an anomaly,”  Waxman said of affluent individuals collecting SNAP benefits.

A 60-day public comment period is open and anyone interested can offer input, which will be reviewed in its entirety before the rule is adopted or rejected. Rector and Waxman say sharing your thoughts with policymakers in Washington on this topic can make a difference.

“If people are able to actually create their personal statement about what this would mean for them, you know, that has to carry a lot of weight,” said Waxman, adding, “What I’m worried about is that people who are sitting right ion the margins of eligibility levels could be losing benefits.”

Rector says it comes down to responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars and people who support that should not let the comment period pass by. “I think it’s very important. The thing that happens in Washington is that the special interests, the government bureaucrats, and so forth, who benefit from this, tend to weigh-in very heavily.  The taxpayers who have to pay for this type of corruption generally are not speaking out,”  said Rector.

Comments may be submitted in writing by one of the following methods:

  • Mail comments to Program Design Branch, Program Development Division, FNS, 3101 Park Center Drive, Room 800, Alexandria, Virginia 22302.
  • Preferred Method: Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for submitting comments.

Note: USDA Food and Nutrition Service says all written comments submitted in response to their information collection will be included in the record and will be made available to the public online or at their office.

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