The Donald Trump administration has finalized new rules to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, or SNAP but best known as “food stamps.” The changes will result in an estimated 3.7 million Americans losing their benefits under the program, according to one recent research study. Now, a second new study shows that the Trump food stamp cuts will hit rural areas the hardest — the regions that voted for Trump in the greatest numbers three years ago.
Exit polls published by The Washington Post show that in 2016, Trump won 61 percent of the vote in rural and small town areas, more than in any other type of region. In suburban areas, Trump won 49 percent, and in cities, he took only 34 percent.
But even though rural voters make up Trump’s electoral base, it is those same voters — and the entire regions where they live — that will suffer the most from the new food stamp rule changes, which are set to take effect in April of next year.
A new study by the Food Research and Action Center, reported by the leading rural news outlet Daily Yonder, reveals that rural families are 25 percent more likely than households in urban areas to receive food stamps.
In addition, 90 percent of United States counties in which 30 percent or more of the population takes part in the SNAP program are outside metropolitan areas. Most rural, food stamp dependent counties are grouped in southern states. Yet with the exception of Virginia, Trump won every southeastern state in the 2016 election and will likely need to repeat his southern sweep to win again in 2020.
But the food stamp cuts will hurt not only the families and individuals who receive SNAP benefits. Entire rural economies will be hit by the cutbacks because small, local grocery stores that serve those regions earn a significant portion of their revenues from SNAP customers, according to Daily Yonder.
“The way I see it, SNAP is one of the best government programs out there,” Kip Yoss, owner of two grocery stores in rural Missouri, told the outlet. “It really helps us pay our utilities, our workers, and keep the doors open.”
Yoss said that his stores depend on SNAP recipients for 11 percent of their sales. Meanwhile, other rural grocery stores may earn up to 30 percent of their revenue from sales of items purchased with food stamps. Nationally, grocery stores take in about 9 percent of revenue from SNAP.
In addition, the economic damage does not end at the grocery store door. According to Daily Yonder, the loss in revenue also affects employment numbers, as well as work opportunities for independent contractors such as electricians, construction workers, and other working Americans.
The new Trump administration rule changes would remove millions of Americans from the SNAP program by changing eligibility requirements, penalizing families that have savings or other assets, or receive other forms of government assistance.