Food Assistance for 1.7 million Georgians at Risk in Federal Proposals

Lawmakers in Congress and the Trump administration are staging a multi-prong assault on the nation’s primary tool for helping families keep enough food on the table, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

While SNAP recipients depend on food assistance for nutrition, it also comes with a package of other benefits related to health, household finances, and education for young children. Congressional leaders and federal agencies need to shield the program from changes that eliminate the benefits of the program. Massive threats to the program are included in a pending reauthorization of the Farm Bill, the White House’s proposed annual budget, a proposed United States Department of Agriculture rule change, and an executive order recently signed by the president.

The national food assistance program is the country’s most effective anti-hunger remedy. It helps one in eight Americans put food on the table. It helps struggling families and workers afford a basic diet. In Georgia alone, 1.7 million people use SNAP benefits to help them afford groceries. Food assistance is especially critical to families most in need. Forty-five percent of SNAP recipients in Georgia are children, 18 percent are elderly or disabled, and 23 percent live in rural areas.

Despite the program’s role in providing a safety net for low-income people, congressional and administrative leaders are considering several changes that could deprive people of the program’s benefits and increase costs and overhead for states. Many of the changes expand the program’s already strict work requirements for childless, non-disabled adults.

Unemployed able-bodied adults without dependents from ages 18 to 49 who receive food assistance need to find a job within three months of starting the program. These adults also must log 20 hours per week in qualified work activities, such as an approved job search or participation in a job-training program.

Although the three-month time limit is supposed to spur employment by encouraging adults on food assistance to find a job, it fails to recognize the steep barriers low-income people must overcome to find work. States can now waive the time-limit work requirements when unemployment spikes.

Some pending proposals threaten to weaken or even eliminate the ability of states to seek waivers when jobs are scarce. These threats and others are a major theme of this year’s SNAP policy debates.

The following table summarizes the four main threats to SNAP.

2018 Farm Bill Reauthorization Effect on Food Assistance
  • Cuts the food stamp benefit to finance various grant programs outside of SNAP
  • Modifies work requirement criteria, extending age to 59 from 49; includes parents raising children over age six
  • Requires states to use new funding to create new work and job training programs
  • Increases the frequency of participant reporting of work progress and income changes
  • Dedicates $7.65 billion in new federal grant funding for the work program, financed by benefit cuts, which amounts to just $30 per participant per month if 3 million people need work slots
White House Proposed 2019 Budget
  • Slashes food assistance by $213 billion over the next decade
  • Creates a food box system that includes the delivery of non-perishable food, such as shelf-stable milk, ready-to-eat cereals, peanut butter, beans and canned foods
  • Modifies the definition of able-bodied adult without dependents by extending the age cap to 62 from 49
  • Limits state access to work requirement waivers
  • Risks categorical eligibility, which allows states to raise income cutoffs by aligning SNAP’s income limit to that of a household’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families-funded benefit
  • Restricts food assistance to families of six or fewer.
  • More details here
USDA Proposed Rule Change
  • Threatens to eliminate a state’s ability to waive the able-bodied-without-dependent time limit in areas of high unemployment
  • Explores higher frequency of SNAP recipient reporting on work activities and changes in income
  • More details here
Executive Order 13828
  • Calls for federal agencies to enforce work new requirements for SNAP
  • Requires states to submit plans to federal agencies that outline ways to strengthen and enforce the SNAP work requirement
  • More details here

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