BY: ISIS AMUSA
The Trump administration announced in late July 2019 its intentions to tighten food stamp regulations which may result in three million people losing their benefits, according to ABC 13.
Under current food stamp regulations, "loophole" families are those with slightly higher incomes than the average eligible family. Families that maintain an annual income of 200 percent of the poverty level, or $50,000, would stop receiving benefits like food stamps from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program if the proposal were to come into effect, according to The New York Times.
The proposal sparked a national outcry with 157,329 people, many of them voicing their opposition, writing to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an open comment section that has since closed.
Many expressed, that the USDA needed to do a better job of explaining the implications this will have on SNAP benefits.
In July, Rep. Robert Scott, (VA-03), and chairman of the House Education Committee called for the revision of the proposal to increase transparency about how new SNAP rules impact the nutrition of children in low-income families.
On Oct. 15, the USDA responded to the outcry with a revised proposal.
Their new and revised analysis details that 982,000 students would be affected by this proposed change. ABC 13 reported, about half of these students, with annual incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty level, would now pay reduced lunch costs of 40 cents for lunch and 30 cents for breakfast. 40,000 of these students, however, would have to pay full price.
The other 445,000 students would keep their eligibility for free meals, the new rule would eliminate their automatic eligibility, making it a requirement that families separately apply for free lunch. This creates yet another "roadblock" for low-income families.
"Many children fall through the cracks when parents have to fill out and submit a paper application," said Lisa Davis, No Kid Hungry Senior Vice President. "We hear from schools all the time about the challenge they have with getting families to understand the paperwork or to get it back."
Got questions about free or reduced price #schoolmeals eligibility? See how @USDA can help! https://t.co/UAQxvxfkBR #NSLW19 pic.twitter.com/ExNkqqRdyP— USDA Nutrition (@USDANutrition) October 17, 2019
USDA also stated that the current program that requires 40 percent of students to be eligible for free meals can no longer be met. While the average price fluctuates for every district, having to pay around $2.48 for lunch causes many struggling families to feel an extra burden. One that results in three-quarters of school districts having students with unpaid meal charges. Many feel the USDA is not giving enough weight to this cumulative burden, according to ABC 13.
The USDA's revision is a small victory to some "... this small step forward in transparency is overshadowed by a tremendous step backward in the fight against child hunger," Rep. Scott said in a statement on Oct. 16 before a hearing on the issue. Rep. Scott believes that "...forcing low-income families to navigate the burdensome paperwork will inevitably lead to eligible children losing access to a critical source of daily nutrition."
The Trump administration has already attempted to put this rule in effect three times but this is the first time the administration has allowed such open criticism. The USDA held another open comment period on its analysis, until Nov. 1.