Gone in a SNAP: New rule could reduce food stamps

Cyril Josh Barker | 12/5/2019, 11:56 a.m.
New Yorkers receiving SNAP could see a 17.2% reduction benefit.

New York is one of 29 states that would see a decrease in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program if the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Trump administration passes a proposed rule change that would leave millions in the nation with less food benefits.

A report recently released by the Urban Institute says that approximately more than 500,000 households with children would lose eligibility, and 1.1 million would receive a smaller benefit if the rule change passes. New Yorkers receiving SNAP could see a 17.2% reduction benefit.

In October, the USDA announced a proposed rule they say will modernize the way utility costs are factored in when states calculate a household’s SNAP benefits. Modern, state-level data sets each heating-and-cooling SNAP Standard Utility Allowance at the 80th percentile of low-income households’ utility costs in that state.

The rule would also replace the “telephone allowance” with a telecommunications allowance that covers basic internet costs—today, a necessity for school, work and work training.

“Americans have every right to expect a program like SNAP to operate fairly and consistently across the country,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

“Utility costs vary across the country, but the great discrepancies we see in SNAP allowances mean that folks living a few miles apart across state lines may see a big difference in their benefit amounts. We are working to improve integrity and fairness in our assistance programs.”

However, the Urban Institute says that states with colder temperatures, like New York, that have higher heating bills would get a decrease in SNAP benefits. Some 21 states would see an increase in benefits. Those states are mostly in the South with Mississippi getting the highest increase in benefits at almost 5%.

“What we found is that overall the three proposed changes would reduce the number of households participating in SNAP by about 11% if this was implemented in 2018,” Laura Wheaton, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, said in one interview. “It’s about a 9.4% reduction in the number of people participating and about an 8% reduction in overall benefits.”

The Urban Institute adds that households with an elderly member or a member with a disability would be the most likely to be affected by the proposed change. Benefits for one in four households with a member with a disability will see an average reduction of $36 per month and 22% of elderly households would experience an average benefit reduction of $38 per month.

According to the New York City Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services, nearly 1.8 million low-income New Yorkers including families receive SNAP benefits. One in eight New Yorkers struggles with food insecurity, according to Hunger Free America.

“The only way to end U.S. hunger is to help Americans better afford food, both by raising wages and ensuring a federal nutrition assistance safety net that is adequately funded and easy-to-access, including benefits such as SNAP; Meals on Wheels and senior center meals for older Americans; WIC for pregnant women and infants; and school breakfasts, lunches and summer meals for children,” said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America. “Americans also need to be able to easily access affordable childcare, housing and health care.”