Public News Service
PORTLAND, Ore. — Hunger-fighting groups thought a work requirement for food stamp recipients was dead after it was taken out of the Farm Bill. But the Trump administration has revived it.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed to undo states’ ability to issue waivers on the three-month limit for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to people who aren’t either working or in a training program for 20 hours a week. Susannah Morgan, CEO of Oregon Food Bank, said states with areas of high unemployment have received waivers, and people often don’t have jobs because of particular barriers, such as health or transportation issues.
“What this is doing is saying, ‘Hey, we are going to make it harder for you to continue to get help feeding yourself while you’re trying to get back into the economy,’” Morgan said. “To me, that is the opposite of what we should be doing.”
An estimated 755,000 people nationwide would lose benefits if the USDA rule goes into effect, according to Politico. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the goal is to move people toward self-sufficiency “at a time when the unemployment rate is at a generational low.”
Morgan said people with SNAP benefits often still rely on food pantries to fill in meal gaps. She said she expects those numbers to grow if this proposal moves forward, and noted that isn’t as convenient as using SNAP benefits.
“With SNAP benefits, you go to the grocery store like everybody else, and you use your Oregon Trail card to access groceries, which grocery stores are plentiful,” she said. “But food assistance, because it’s mainly all volunteer-led, as much as we do our best to make it convenient and friendly, it is not as easy as running to the grocery store.”
Morgan said the narrative from President Donald Trump has been that people who get assistance “aren’t trying hard enough.” But she argued that simply isn’t true. She said SNAP recipients are among Oregon’s poorest families, and the program benefits a large number of kids and older folks.
“The narrative should be, ‘These are folks who need help feeding themselves and their families. How can we do more?’” Morgan said. “How can we really make sure that all of their food needs are met so that they can reengage in society?”
A two-month public comment period for the proposal starts soon. Comments can be submitted at Regulations.gov.