Yesterday, Sonny Perdue, the head of the United States Department of Agriculture announced a final rule change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
That program provided food stamps to at least 39 million people in 2018, but Purdue says the system has gotten away from its original intent.
“Our purpose is to restore the original intent of food stamps, formally known as SNAP,” Purdue says. “At the direction of President Donald Trump, we are announcing a final rule to move more able-bodied recipients of SNAP benefits towards self-sufficiency and into employment. The rule restores the system to what Congress intended: assistance through difficult times, not a way of life.”
The agency estimates about 690,000 able-bodied adults without dependents would lose SNAP benefits under this final rule.
But, UW-Madison Professor of Public Affairs and Economics Tim Smeeding says this rule change won’t mean much for Wisconsin, as the State has already taken benefits away from adults without dependents.
“That is not going to affect Wisconsin very much because our former governor, [Scott] Walker, instituted that law of April, 2015,” Smeeding says. “So, we already are telling able-bodied adults without dependents, so-called ABAWDs, that they have to work or lose their benefits after three months on the program.”
Even though this particular rule might not do much to SNAP recipients in Wisconsin, Smeeding says another rule introduced in July would prohibit anyone with more than $2,250 in assets from staying on the program. That rule could affect up to 3 million people nationwide.
“Now those, those would have big effects on Wisconsin. Big, negative effects,” Smeeding says.
Shawn Tessmann, Dane County’s Director of Human Services also says she’s not too concerned about this final rule, but says a “litany” of federal changes will have a compounding negative effect.
“One has been on categorical eligibility, or essentially how people would become eligible for the program and tightening up those rules related to that at the federal level. I’m also hearing that there is an examination of changes to change how heat and utility expenses would count for foodshare eligibility, which obviously during the winter months would greatly affect areas like us here in Wisconsin,” Tessmann says. “There’s been rules created that are really directed at what is called “the public charge,” so it is intended for families who are legally here, but it is a look-back to see how far back they might have been a recipient of public assistance and it might affect their future eligibility status for immigration, and that’s a great concern to our immigration community. So, all of those things together really do have sort of a cumulative effect.”
The final rule the USDA announced yesterday is set to take effect April 1st of next year.