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USDA Clamps Down on Work Requirement for SNAP Benefits




 A woman holds a bag of pears as she waits in line to receive free food at the Richmond Emergency Food Bank on November 1, 2013 in Richmond, California.
A woman holds a bag of pears as she waits in line to receive free food at the Richmond Emergency Food Bank on November 1, 2013 in Richmond, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Hundreds of thousands of Americans who rely on the federal food stamp program will lose their benefits under a new Trump administration rule that will tighten work requirements for recipients.

It is the first of three proposed rules targeting the Supplemental Nutrition Program, known as SNAP, to be finalized. The plan, announced Wednesday, will limit states from exempting work-eligible adults from having to maintain steady employment in order to receive benefits. The Agriculture Department estimates the change would save roughly $5.5 billion over five years and cut benefits for roughly 688,000 SNAP recipients.

Under current rules, work-eligible able-bodied adults without dependents and between the ages of 18 and 49 can currently receive only three months of SNAP benefits in a three-year period if they don’t meet the 20-hour work requirement. But states with high unemployment rates or a demonstrable lack of sufficient jobs can waive those time limits. Under the plan, states can only issue waivers if a city or county has an unemployment rate of 6% or higher. The Urban Institute in a study released last month estimated that taken together, the three measures would affect roughly 2.2 million households, and 3.7 million individual beneficiaries. The final rule will be published in the federal register Thursday, and go into effect in April.

With files from the Associated Press

Guests:

Andrew Cheyne, director of government affairs for the California Association of Food Banks

Robert Rector, a senior research fellow with the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity at the Heritage Foundation