Changes to SNAP food assistance program could affect hundreds of thousands

Published: Dec. 5, 2019 at 6:03 PM EST
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(12/5/19) - Changes may be coming to an important food assistance program -- SNAP.

Up to 700-thousand people could be affected -- stripping away their benefits.

"There are going to be three provisions in the work rules, are there. Able-bodied adults without dependents. And then there is a categorical exclusion as well that has been misused by states," said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

The USDA is in the process of changing who can get food stamps and for how long.

Right now, a person between 18-49 years of age with no dependents can receive up to three months of assistance during unemployment.

However, some people have been able to get waivers, extending that help.

The new rules will make waiver extensions much more difficult to get, using a 6% minimum unemployment rate in order for a county to receive one.

"Yes, that would be fair. But, then they can't single out an age, you know, up to 49, because, a lot of people at 49 don't have jobs. Are they going to get jobs?," said Flint resident Lisa Firman.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 36 million people were receiving food stamps in 2019.

Yet, the unemployment rate is 3.6%.

Michigan's unemployment rate as of September was 4.2%, up slightly from last year's 3.9%.

The goal is to encourage those receiving SNAP benefits to actively seek job opportunities, something the current administration sees as doable, with national unemployment rates the lowest in half a century, according to the Department of Labor

"It's one of those things that in theory sounds fair, but I just think I would have to know more about the details," said Flint resident Amber Hasan.

The USDA says the changes could save about a billion dollars a year.

The new rules are scheduled to go into effect next spring.

However, there are plenty of details still to be worked out.

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