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Last Update: 23 Hour and 16 Minute ago
News code: 28927
Published Date: Sunday 12 January 2020 - 16:00:27
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Trump's policy change keeps 700,000 of the poor from food stamps

Trump's policy change keeps 700,000 of the poor from food stamps
World  - Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia are scrambling to address a Trump administration policy change that will keep nearly 700,000 of their poorest residents from accessing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps.


Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced last month that in an effort "to restore the dignity of work," the Trump administration would limit states from waiving work requirements in areas of high unemployment for people between the ages of 18 and 49 who are childless and not disabled.

The change will affect hundreds of thousands of people and create a tremendous amount of work for small state agencies over a short timeline

Under current rules, this group is required to work at least 20 hours a week for more than three months over a 36-month period to qualify for SNAP, but states were able to acquire a waiver from the federal government in areas of their state that faced high unemployment.

That's no longer the case after April 1 when the administration's latest rule takes effect, leaving affected states rushing to notify the residents at risk of losing their benefits. Many are also working to mitigate the fallout by ensuring that those affected are indeed "able-bodied" and don't fall under a limited number of exemptions, including taking care of a child or an incapacitated person, physical or mental limitations, participation in an alcohol or drug treatment program, pregnancy or pursuing school or volunteer work.

State leaders and hunger advocates in Washoe County, Nevada - which stretches from Reno to the state's northern border - have a head start on notifying residents after the county lost its waiver for the first time last year. Employment levels rose amid a technology industry boom in the county's larger cities, meaning the county no longer qualified for the waiver.

The preparations over the past year in Washoe included retraining the state and advocates' workforce so that they fully understood the rule, and creating a work group to put out notifications and make contact. The efforts ultimately reduced the number of people losing their benefits from 4,000 to 2,300.

"This was the first time in 10 years that the work requirements ever had to be applied," Shane Piccinini, a public policy advocate at the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, explained. "There were people in health and human services and in the food bank who deal with this population who had never had to work with these rules before and had to learn them."

Piccinini said that struggle is now going to spread across the country, and it comes with a much more aggressive timeline than Nevada faced, as the state was aware of its changing labor market. States only have a few months before the rule is enacted to identify the affected people, ensure they are informed that they will lose access to the benefit, and investigate whether they were correctly categorized as able-bodied.As of January, Nevada's working group - consisting of the two food banks and the state agency - is back in place in preparation for the Trump administration's change. The state anticipated that this rule might go through and expanded the training of its staff in early 2019 to develop upon the resources it dedicated for Washoe County.

An Urban Institute study estimates that more than 30,000 Nevadans could be at risk of losing their benefits.

"Through the food banks, through mass mailings, social media and contact with the [Retail Association of Nevada], we were able to notify every Nevadan that was impacted in Washoe County," Robert Thompson, the deputy administrator for the division who oversees SNAP, said. "We are following that exact same frame now for the rest of Nevada."

It's a playbook that other states may now be scrambling to emulate.

States reach out to thousands
NBC News contacted a handful of states that could see the biggest impact in the country, including California, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Illinois, to get an idea of how they are attempting to prepare for huge portions of their populations losing access to benefits that put food on their tables.

Collectively, those states could see as many as 383,000 people lose access to the program, according to an Urban Institute analysis.

Teresa Miller, the secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services, said her team is in constant meetings with SNAP recipients, food banks, consumer and hunger advocates and others to brainstorm ways to use their existing resources to mitigate the impact on nearly 100,000 of their residents.

Source: NBC

News Code: 28927
Published Date: Sunday 12 January 2020 - 16:00:27
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