The Washington Post

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is aim­ing to pare food aid

- BY CAITLIN DEWEY

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is seek­ing to dra­mat­i­cally cut food aid to large Amer­i­can fam­i­lies as part of its wide-rang­ing bud­get pro­posal to shrink the so­cial safety net, De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture of­fi­cials said Tues­day.

The mea­sure is a small part of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s rad­i­cal plan to cut the Sup­ple­men­tal Nu­tri­tion As­sis­tance Pro­gram (SNAP), bet­ter known as food stamps, by $193 bil­lion over 10 years. The plan would slash the num­ber of peo­ple who rely on the SNAP pro­gram, which cur­rently cov­ers 44 mil­lion peo­ple.

On Mon­day, Mick Mul­vaney, the White House bud­get di­rec­tor, sig­naled that the ad­min­is­tra­tion would achieve that goal in part by lim­it­ing eli­gi­bil­ity to un­em­ployed adult par­tic­i­pants. But in the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s full bud­get pro­posal, and in a call with re­porters Tues­day af­ter­noon, Deputy Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Michael Young said the ad­min­is­tra­tion is seek­ing to slash SNAP ben­e­fits to another pop­u­la­tion as well: low-in­come house­holds of more than six peo­ple, the ma­jor­ity of which in­clude young chil­dren.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan would cap the max­i­mum monthly ben­e­fits for all fam­i­lies at the cur­rent thresh­old for a fam­ily of six, Young said. That ef­fec­tively means that any ad­di­tional fam­ily mem­bers would be in­dis­crim­i­nately booted from the pro­gram.

While the af­fected pop­u­la­tion is not large — slightly fewer than 200,000 SNAP house­holds have more than six peo­ple — USDA data sug­gests it is highly vul­ner­a­ble. To qual­ify for SNAP, a fam­ily of eight must have a gross an­nual in­come of $53,000 or less. The ma­jor­ity of th­ese large house­holds in­clude chil­dren younger than 12 and also tend to in­clude more women than men.

Anti-hunger ad­vo­cates are al­ready de­rid­ing the pro­posed cuts.

“This all de­rives from that old ca­nard that peo­ple have more chil­dren to get more wel­fare ben­e­fits,” said Craig Gun­der­sen, an agri­cul­tural econ­o­mist at the Univer­sity of Illi­nois who has stud­ied SNAP for 20 years. “The amount of money you get for each ad­di­tional child is not sig­nif­i­cant. No one is look­ing at that and say­ing, ‘I think I’ll have more kids be­cause of it.’ . . . It’s to­tally in­con­sis­tent with the goals of SNAP as an anti-hunger pro­gram.”

Un­der SNAP’s long-stand­ing rules, ben­e­fit amounts are cal­cu­lated ac­cord­ing to an ap­pli­cant’s in­come, lo­ca­tion and fam­ily size. In most of the coun­try, the max­i­mum al­lot­ment in­creases from $120 to $150 per month — roughly $4 to $5 per day — for ev­ery ex­tra per­son in the house.

But the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­posal would change that for large house­holds, cap­ping the amount they can re­ceive, re­gard­less of size, at $925 per month. For a fam­ily of nine, that would de­crease the max­i­mum ben­e­fit from $1,315 — roughly $4.87 per per­son per day — to ap­prox­i­mately $3.43. That is sig­nif­i­cantly lower than even the most con­ser­va­tive amount the USDA says is needed to feed a fam­ily.

In a sep­a­rate, closely re­lated, mea­sure, Trump’s bud­get also pro­poses elim­i­nat­ing the minimum SNAP al­lot­ment of $16 per month for house­holds with one or two peo­ple. The in­di­vid­u­als who re­ceive the SNAP minimum are most fre­quently low-in­come se­niors and peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties who have smaller house­holds and higher in­comes rel­a­tive to oth­ers in their co­hort. Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Bud­get Pol­icy Pri­or­i­ties, a left-lean­ing think tank, the change would elim­i­nate al­most 2 mil­lion of those ben­e­fi­cia­ries from the pro­gram.

“The un­em­ployed, the el­derly, and low-in­come work­ing fam­i­lies with chil­dren would bear the brunt of the cuts,” CBPP’s Stacy Dean wrote in a Tues­day anal­y­sis.

Young, the deputy agri­cul­ture sec­re­tary, did not ex­plain the ra­tio­nale be­hind ei­ther of the pro­posed cuts in the SNAP pro­gram, and the USDA did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for more de­tails. But both were rolled out as part of a larger, com­pre­hen­sive pol­icy plan.

Dur­ing Tues­day’s me­dia call, Young said that all the pro­posed cuts — not only to SNAP but also to USDA pro­grams in­clud­ing farm sub­si­dies, re­search and ru­ral de­vel­op­ment — are nec­es­sary, if dif­fi­cult, sac­ri­fices.

“This is all part of our big­ger pol­icy goal to get the bud­get bal­anced over 10 years,” he said.

 ?? SPENCER PLATT/GETTY IMAGES ?? In Welch, W.Va., res­i­dents wait in line — some overnight — for free gro­ceries at the Five Loaves and Two Fishes Food Bank.
SPENCER PLATT/GETTY IMAGES In Welch, W.Va., res­i­dents wait in line — some overnight — for free gro­ceries at the Five Loaves and Two Fishes Food Bank.

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