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Tippecanoe County community resource leaders react to Trump administration's new food stamp rule

The Trump administration has introduced a rule that restricts states from waiving a food stamp requirement. This waiver is something Indiana food stamp, recipients benefit from.

Posted: Dec 9, 2019 7:32 PM
Updated: Dec 9, 2019 7:36 PM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — The Trump administration has introduced a rule that restricts states from waiving a food stamp requirement. This waiver is something Indiana Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients benefit from.

“We've been operating under a waiver that allowed able-bodied adults without children to still get SNAP benefits,” said Katy Bunder, CEO, and President of Food Finders Food Bank.

Thirty-six states currently have waivers according to Bunder. The new rule now makes it a requirement for able-bodied adults without children to work at least 20-hours a week. This has been an established rule for SNAP benefits for some time, however, states have been able to waive that rule depending on the state's unemployment rate. Now the Federal government will have the final say.

“It's just going to make for a lot of red tape and it will slow down a lot of people getting SNAP benefits,” said Bunder

When government changes are made to food stamp requirements, Bunder said the pantries are often the first to see its effect.

“They are putting the burden right smack on the food bank because where do people go when they can't go to the grocery store and use their SNAP benefits? They go to the local food pantries,” said Bunder.

But it doesn't stop at food pantries, when people become food insecure it can affect other aspects of life as well.

“Whatever limited resources they have, they're going to be using to eat, they're not going to be using to go out and look for work, to spend on transportation, to spend on rent so really an impact like this trickles down,” said Joe Micon, Lafayette Urban Ministry Executive Director.

The reason for this new requirement is to encourage SNAP recipients to return to work if able. Micon said it isn’t that easy.

“I know for a fact that there are so many individuals relying on food stamps, food stamps already being inadequate, about $1.50 per person, per meal during the course of the month. Individuals are already stretched so thin when it comes to their food resources,” said Micon. “It’s easy to say jobs are plentiful, people ought to be able to fend for themselves but, keep in mind, we are talking about people who are entry-level people, people that oftentimes have a mental illness or are on the verge of mental illness, people who have addictions.”

Bunder said SNAP benefits, like the food pantry, are meant for supplemental use.

“SNAP benefits were never meant to be for people who were in abject poverty, they were meant as a safety net to prevent people from sliding into complete poverty and that’s why you can get SNAP benefits if you have a small income,” said Bunder. “It was meant to keep you stable, to stabilize households and that’s also how our food pantry works. We try to give people food before they are homeless, before they are in dire straits, although many of them are.”

Bunder said able-bodied adults affected by this new rule are among the poorest of all SNAP recipients. This change is expected to affect nearly 700,000 people nationwide. The new rule is set to start on Apr. 1, 2020.

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