Changes to eligibility rules for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, will kick approximately 3.7 million people off the program, according to a new study released this week. The Donald Trump administration proposed the new restrictions to the food stamp program on July 22, with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue saying that the new rules would "save money."
"SNAP should be a temporary safety net," Perdue said when he announced the new rules.
The new eligibility rules are expected to hit about 75 percent of all Americans who earn 130 percent of the federal poverty level, according to a report by Axios. For a family of four, that would be $33,475 per year. For an individual, 130 percent of the poverty level is equivalent to an income of $16,237 per year.
Eight states would be hit hardest by the new restrictions: California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington state, and Texas, according to the study, as reported by Axios.
According to the study carried out by the nonpartisan Urban Institute, if the rules had been in place last year, 3.7 million Americans, and 2.1 million households, that received SNAP assistance would not have qualified for any help. Households would lose an average of $127 per month in food support under the new rules.
Under current rules "able-bodied" adults may receive food stamps for only three months in any 36-month period unless they meet specified work requirements. But those participants can also request waivers to receive food stamp support for a longer period of time. The new rules, however, tighten the requirements for granting those waivers.
Under the new rules, 755,000 able-bodied adults would lose their eligibility for waivers in the year 2020, cutting the amount the government spends on food stamps by 2.5 percent, according to the study.
The new rules would also change the way states calculate the standard utility allowance (SUA) — that is, the amount households may deduct from their total income to cover household utilities, such as heating.
Under the new SUA rules, according to an Urban Institute report, people in many of the country's coldest states would be forced to go without food assistance.
Vermont would see reductions in assistance of 21.6 percent, the most in the country. New York would be hit with 11.1 percent reductions, and South Dakota would see SNAP go down by 11 percent. In all, according to the report, 12 states would see reductions of more than five percent due to the new SUA rules.
Households with an elderly or disabled family member would see the largest reductions in assistance under the SUA changes, with benefits for those households dropping by an average of $36 per month, according to the Urban Institute study.