SNAP Eligibility Rules Toughened In New Congress Draft Legislation

SNAP, ( Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is the program formerly known as food stamps. It is a federal nutrition program that helps stretch the food budget and buy healthy food.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees SNAP at the federal level. In Massachusetts, you apply for benefits through the state agency that administers the program, called the Department of Transitional Assistance.

More than 40 million Americans receive food stamps. The program has been linked with improved health outcomes in low-income households. Adults on SNAP have about $1,400 less in medical care costs a year compared to low-income adult non-beneficiaries.

 

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SNAP: Current Proposed Legislation

A farm bill draft released last week by Congress drew protests from several food providers. House Republicans had included a provision to the bill  that would toughen work requirements for SNAP.  Applicants have to be working or getting job training for at least 20 hours a week.  Non-compliers would lose benefits for up to one year for the first violation and up to three years for a second violation. Democrats, as well, oppose this provision, and charge that it would leave millions hungry and result in much higher future healthcare costs.

Under current program rules, able-bodied adults with no dependents between the ages of 18 and 49 must work or engage in job training for 20 hours a week.  This must be within three months after receiving benefits.

The new proposal enforces work requirements on adults up to age 59, and include parents of children over the age of 6. They would have to begin work or job training within one month of receiving benefits. The new rules would go into effect by 2021, increasing the workweek requirement to 25 hours in 2026.

The proposed changes to SNAP’s work requirements are the latest effort by Republicans to cut the supplemental program. Last Tuesday President Trump signed an executive order to have federal agencies review welfare programs in order to establish or toughen work requirements.

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