The Trump Administration Just Proposed Kicking 3.1 Million People Off Food Stamps

A rule change could strip the poor of more than $2.5 billion in nutritional assistance.

A protester urges lawmakers to reject food stamp cuts in the 2018 farm bill.Sarah Silbiger/Getty

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration floated a plan that could strip food stamps from more than 3 million people.

The proposed rule change, announced by the Department of Agriculture, would limit the use of “broad based categorial eligibility”—a system, adopted by more than 40 states, that makes some low-income people automatically eligible for food stamps based on their receipt of other forms of federal aid, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). By undoing portions of this automatic eligibility, the administration estimates it will save $2.5 billion by pulling food stamps from millions of recipients.

The administration has billed this as a necessary change to close what it has labeled as a “loophole” that makes households eligible for food stamps without separate income or asset checks. The proposed rule would tighten categorical eligibility, and only provide such access to families who have received at least $50 per month in TANF benefits for six months or longer.

“States are taking advantage of loopholes that allow millions of people to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, commonly known as food stamps, who would otherwise not qualify,” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue wrote in a Fox News op-ed published Tuesday. “It is my job to ensure the people who truly need food stamps receive what they’re entitled to—but the waste must stop.”

Republicans have long lobbied to reduce food stamp expenditures by limiting categorical eligibility, which they see as wasteful and unfair, and attempted to pass a version of USDA’s proposed change in last year’s farm bill. Democrats, on the other hand, see this change as a threat to the health and security of millions of low-income families, by both narrowing food stamp eligibility while increasing paperwork families must complete to get food assistance.

Some policy advocates on Tuesday came out against the change. “After failing to weaponize the 2018 Farm Bill to strike categorical eligibility from the SNAP program, President Donald Trump is defying Congress and waging war on workers and families who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Ben Olinsky, the senior vice president of policy and strategy at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, in a statement. Other think tanks alongside CAP, like the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, have noted that restricting categorical eligibility could cause families to lose their food assistance altogether as they achieve small increases in pay or accrue just a few thousand dollars in a safety net. Categorical eligibility currently allows states to tweak income and asset limits to more gradually phase out SNAP benefits as low-income families’ economic situations improve, so as not to undo modest financial gains.

This proposed change is the latest in several other attempts by the Trump administration to curb food stamp access, including by imposing more severe work requirements and by changing the way the poverty threshold is calculated.

The comment period on this administration’s latest proposal will begin on Wednesday and remain open for 60 days. 

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate