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Statement: SC Appleseed Opposes Rule Change for Out-Of-Work or Under-Employed SNAP Food Benefit Recipients

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This week, the Trump Administration published a final rule to cut SNAP benefits (food stamps) for hundreds of thousands of people who are out of work or under-employed. The group of people affected are categorized as able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) and approximately 700,000 of them will lose food assistance under this new rule. Congress rejected this change to ABAWD policy when it passed its 2018 Farm Bill, and the Trump Administration’s attempt to circumvent Congress is a violation of administrative law.

The new rule will not be implemented until Spring 2020, and until all possible efforts to prevent implementation have been exhausted. It is important that ABAWDs continue to use their SNAP benefits as usual during this time.

Since the 1990s, SNAP time limit policies have targeted ABAWDs and others in need of assistance. For adults aged 18-through-49 without children, who are unable to document at least 20 hours of work or work activity each month, SNAP eligibility is revoked after three months. Individuals who are physically or mentally unfit to work are exempt from this harsh time limit, but many states do not properly screen for fitness to work. Furthermore, many areas in our country lack employment opportunities and/or the necessary infrastructure for people to access work, like transportation and childcare resources. The result is that ABAWDs who are physically or mentally unable to work, or who cannot access employment, are cut off food assistance after three months.

Congress has tried to mitigate the harmful ABAWD three-month time limit by allowing states to request waivers of the time limit for areas with high unemployment rates or labor surpluses. The new rule reduces states’ flexibility to request these important waivers, meaning that hundreds of thousands of ABAWDs in areas with insufficient employment opportunities will be required to consistently work at least 20 hours per week in order to receive more than three months’ assistance in keeping food on the table.

There is no evidence to support the idea that kicking people off SNAP after three months does anything to connect them with jobs; we know from experience working directly with this population and from research that many barriers exist between people and good jobs in South Carolina. The harsh SNAP time limit simply leads to more food insecurity among unemployed and underemployed South Carolinians.

SC Appleseed strongly opposes this new rule, which will expose 700,000 Americans to the arbitrary SNAP time limit and harm our communities by increasing hunger. We must continue to voice our opposition to this harmful rule and support efforts to prevent its implementation. SNAP is America’s first defense against hunger; it should be protected and expanded so that no person goes hungry.