Nearly 700,000 Americans will lose their access to federal food stamps under new rules formalized by the Trump administration, the Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday.
The proposal will see a tightening of work requirements for recipients and removes individual states’ discretion to waive those rules for people in desperate need of the the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which helps more than 36 million Americans, NBC News reported.
Currently, people aged between 18 and 49 who are childless and not disabled are required to work at least 20 hours a week for more than three months over a 36-hour period to qualify for food stamps.
States have previously been able to create waivers for people in high unemployment areas but the new Department of Agriculture rules removes that discretion and restricts waivers to areas that have unemployment rates of 6 percent or higher.
The current national unemployment rate is 3.6 percent.
The change, which takes effect on April 1, 2020, does not apply to children and their parents, those over 50 (including the elderly), those with a disability or pregnant women.
This is the first of three rule changes aimed to augment the SNAP program proposed by the Trump administration. The two others would “reform” the way 40 states automatically enroll families into SNAP when they receive other forms of federal aid and cap deductions made for housing and utility costs, which are considered when a person applies for food stamps.
On Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the change would see 688,000 people lose access to food stamps, but said it would restore integrity to the program.
“We’re taking action to reform our SNAP program in order to restore the dignity of work to a sizable segment of our population and be respectful of the taxpayers who fund the program,” Perdue said.
“Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch. That’s the commitment behind SNAP, but, like other welfare programs, it was never intended to be a way of life.”