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A new study of proposed Trump administration changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, found that they could result in 3.7 million Americans losing their food stamps.
The report from the non-profit Urban Institute examined the effects of three proposed changes to the program, which would tighten work requirements and deductions for housings costs, and alter automatic enrollment protocols in 40 states. Had the proposed changes been in effect last year, the study found, 3.7 million Americans and over two million households would have lost their food stamps, while millions of others would have seen a reduction in their benefits. Nearly a million students would have lost their automatic free or discounted school meals.
“What we found is that overall the three proposed changes would reduce the number of households participating in SNAP by about 11 percent if this was implemented in 2018,” the Urban Institute’s Laura Wheaton told NBC News. “It’s about a 9.4 percent reduction in the number of people participating and about an 8 percent reduction in overall benefits.”
In some states, like Mississippi, Arkansas, Virginia, and Tennessee, benefits would increase under the new rules. But the proposed changes have faced criticism, including from the United Sates Conference of Mayors. An August letter signed by mayors of 70 American cities pointed out that 80 percent of all SNAP households contain a child, a person with disabilities, or an elderly person. Members of the public have also spoken out against the changes, with the proposed that would have limited automatic eligibility attracting 170,000 mostly negative responses during its public comment period.
Last year, agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue wrote in an op-ed that the pr0posed new work requirement rule “restores the dignity of work to a sizable segment of our population, while it is also respectful of the taxpayers who fund the program.”
According to HuffPost, the date on which the changes could go into effect remains unclear. But the new study indicates that they could imperil millions in a country already struggling with hunger and malnutrition. Last year, one in nine Americans suffered from food insecurity, which means that they did not have consistent access to enough food to provide for a healthy life. And even with existing benefits, 50 percent of SNAP recipients are still food insecure.