USDA asks for ABAWD input; McGovern and DeLauro upset
The Trump administration wants to discourage waivers to the limits on a category of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants known as able-bodied adults without dependents and is scheduled today to publish a rule in the Federal Register requesting public input on the issue.
Comments can be submitted through the Federal Register through April 9.
“USDA intends to use the input received to find improvements to SNAP policy and related services that can best assist SNAP participants return to self-sufficiency,” the department said in a news release.
“Long-term dependency has never been part of the American dream,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a news release. “USDA’s goal is to move individuals and families from SNAP back to the workforce as the best long-term solution to poverty. Everyone who receives SNAP deserves an opportunity to become self-sufficient and build a productive, independent life.”
USDA explained, “Federal law limits the amount of time an able-bodied adult without dependents (ABAWD) can receive SNAP benefits to three months in a 36-month period, unless the individual is working and/or participating in a work program half-time or more, or participating in workfare. The law exempts individuals from the time limit for several reasons, including age, unfitness for work, or having a dependent child. The law also provides state agencies with flexibility to request a waiver of this time limit if unemployment is high or the area does not have a sufficient number of jobs to provide employment.”
“Too many states have asked to waive work requirements, abdicating their responsibility to move participants to self-sufficiency,” Perdue said. “Past decisions may have been the easy short-term choice, but USDA policies must change if they contribute to a long-term failure for many SNAP participants and their families.”
President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, released on February 12, proposes to limit waivers of the time limit for ABAWDs to counties with 10 percent unemployment over 12 months.
“The SNAP safety net must be there for those unable to work due to disability or another legitimate reason,” Perdue said. “But for the able-bodied, we must reduce barriers to work, and hold both individuals and states accountable for participants getting and keeping jobs.”
Anti-hunger groups have said that limiting the states’ ability to provide waivers for ABAWD will only increase hunger and have pointed out that the ABAWDS include homeless veterans.
Stacy Dean of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities told the Food and Environment Reporting Network Thursday, “We welcome the opportunity to weigh in on the harshness of this rule and ways to help, not harm, very poor unemployed people. Unfortunately, this appears to be another effort on the part of the administration to make this rule even more punitive and unfair.”
The proposal to allow waivers only in high-unemployment counties would disqualify 600,000 to 700,000 recipients, according to a report by the center.
The public input could lead to a USDA rule or be used in the debate over the nutrition title of the next farm bill.
House Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee ranking member Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Rep. Rosa De Lauro, D-Conn., a member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee and its former chairwoman, both issued statements today criticizing the proposal to limit the waivers.
“Americans already struggling to put food on the table need our help, but instead the Trump Administration is finding cruel new ways to humiliate them and make their lives harder,” said McGovern.
“The fact is that the majority of Americans on SNAP who can work, do work. Many who struggle to find work have limited access to education, face mental health issues, and grapple with homelessness and other hardships,” McGovern said.
“This group includes as many as 60,000 veterans. If President Trump were serious about tackling poverty, his budget would reflect that. This mean-spirited plan will do nothing to help Americans find jobs and only make hunger worse. Instead of attacking our country’s most vulnerable, we should be working to pass bipartisan legislation that invests in job training programs that will help them get back on their feet. That’s what our communities really need.”
“The Trump administration is once again targeting America’s most vulnerable citizens,” said DeLauro. “Food insecurity is a crisis in places that Secretary Perdue would cut off given the proposed restrictions at the state and local level.”
“Despite the rhetoric from [House] Speaker [Paul] Ryan and Republicans saying that they want to tackle poverty, the truth is that imposing additional requirements on SNAP only serves to cut off a lifeline that keeps millions of Americans — the majority of whom are seniors, children, and people with disabilities — from going hungry each year.
“The vast majority of SNAP recipients already work if they can, and the USDA’s most recent data shows that work rates have been increasing year after year—so Secretary Perdue searching for a solution for a problem that does not exist. The American people would be far better served if the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans focused on economic policies that create jobs and raise wages instead of cruelly blaming people for needing a helping hand.”
–The Hagstrom Report