Today, the Trump Administration published a final rule that would disallow hundreds of thousands of individuals from utilizing SNAP to reduce their food insecurity. The individuals – SNAP participants ages 18 through 49 who aren’t raising minor children in their homes – are among those whose financial situation is the least able to handle such a decrease in support.
A longstanding provision of SNAP limits these individuals, often called able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs), to only three months of benefits in a three year period if the individual is employed less than 20 hours per week. However, due to the harsh nature of this provision, it also allows states to apply for waivers for those areas of the state where unemployment is high or insufficient jobs are available. The proposed rule would greatly restrict states’ ability to qualify for these waivers, thus cutting off basic food aid to nearly 700,000 unemployed or underemployed individuals, according to the Trump administration’s own estimates.
In Missouri, we have already seen the disastrous effects of a similar rule. In 2015, the Missouri State General Assembly passed SB 24, which precluded the Department of Social Services from requesting these waivers in any geographic area, regardless of economic conditions. According to a memo from Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, SB 24 resulted in 52,964 ABAWDs losing their ability to utilize SNAP in 2016, and another 25,646 losing that ability in 2017.
The published rule will undoubtedly be challenged in court, and Empower Missouri encourages litigation to prevent the implementation of this misinformed and harmful rule. It is a clear attempt by the administration to override the will of Congress, which did not include these policy changes in the farm bill that was passed on a bi-partisan basis last year.
The administration, in their official summary of this rule change, states that this rule change “would encourage broader application of the statutory ABAWD work requirement, consistent with the Administration’s focus on fostering self-sufficiency.”
“The idea that policies like the one published today help or encourage individuals to find sufficient employment is a farce,” said Conner Kerrigan, Communications Director for Empower Missouri. “You can’t get a job when you’re hungry.”
Empower Missouri (www.EmpowerMissouri.org) is a statewide not-for-profit advocating for the well-being of Missourians through civic leadership, education, and research. Founded as the Missouri Conference on Charities and Corrections in 1901, Empower Missouri has operated under four names in its 118-year history, but always with a focus on access to basic human needs and basic fairness.