USDA proposes replacing food stamps with delivery service, added work requirements

17 February, 2018, 01:21 | Author: Kristine Mills
  • The USDA America‚Äôs Harvest Box plan would save $129.2 billion over the next 10 years

The proposal, announced Monday, would slash the food stamp program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), by $17 billion in 2019.

The spokesperson added that the USDA "would set guidelines on the contents in America's Harvest Box" that states would follow, but would not elaborate on what specific guidelines the agency would distribute to state agencies handling SNAP. According to the summary of the proposal that has been issued by the Department of Agriculture suggested that the boxes would replace about 50% of the cash benefits under the current food stamp program. The people affected are households that receive at least $90 a month in assistance, or 81 percent of all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.

The plan has already drawn criticism from a number of groups, though Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently defended it in a statement to The Hill.

Stacy Dean, vice president for food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the work requirement initiatives are created to get millions of people who now rely on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits off the rolls rather than encourage or enable more people to find and keep jobs. Almost 900,000 people in Washington who receive food benefits could be affected, including more than 300,000 children.

"It would reduce benefits and undercut the program's efficiency and effectiveness", she said".

The proposal is part of a broader plan to gut the SNAP program, reducing it by roughly $213 billion - almost 30 per cent - over the next decade.

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Critics of the proposal said distributing that much food presents a logistical nightmare. This proposal still needs to have approval from Congress.

Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a hunger advocacy group that also helps clients access food-assistance services, said the administration's plan left him baffled. "These budget proposals for SNAP are the wrong way to go to provide healthy, safe, affordable food for all". Also, they were concerned that families would not know what food they would get in advance nor have any choice regarding what they receive.

However, he disagreed with media coverage that claimed the SNAP program is being abused by users, which he described as "people from all walks of life". "They might not even use the items in the box", Haynes-Maslow said. About 44 million people participated in SNAP each month in 2016, at an annual cost of $70.9 billion.

"When you get a job, that's not the end of the story, that's often where the story begins", said Heather Hahn, senior fellow in the Center for Labor, Human Services and Population at the Urban Institute.

Congress largely ignored Trump's proposed budget for SNAP previous year, when he wanted to cut the funding by a quarter. "I look forward to working on those changes when the Senate takes up the Farm Bill later this year".

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