The proposed regulation, if finalized, would take away some state flexibility in setting benefit levels under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The draft rule is the Trump administration’s third proposed cut to SNAP benefits in the past year, demonstrating Trump’s commitment to a conventional Republican policy goal: kicking people off welfare.
None of the proposals have taken effect yet. The previous two, which were modeled on legislation that Republicans couldn’t get through Congress last year, would shrink program enrollment by almost 4 million. All three proposals are still pending in a formal regulatory process.
More than 36 million Americans were enrolled in SNAP as of June, according to the latest data. Benefits average about $125 per month per person and can be used for food items at grocery stores and farmers markets.
“The administration’s latest proposal to cut SNAP would leave millions of people, including struggling families, seniors, and people with disabilities, with less help putting food on the table,” Stacy Dean, a SNAP policy expert with the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said in a statement.
Federal law allows households to deduct shelter and utility costs that exceed 50 percent of their net income. By taking the deduction, households can qualify for a bigger benefit. States are allowed to set standard utility allowances to avoid the hassle of figuring out individual households’ specific costs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing a more uniform national standard, taking the matter out of states’ hands ― a similar strategy employed in the two previous proposals to trim SNAP.
“Americans have every right to expect a program like SNAP to operate fairly and consistently across the country,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a press release.
“Utility costs vary across the country, but the great discrepancies we see in SNAP allowances mean that folks living a few miles apart across state lines may see a big difference in their benefit amounts,” Perdue said.
The USDA said 16% of households would see a benefit increase, while 19% would see a decrease and roughly 8,000 would lose eligibility altogether. The proposal would cut spending by about $4.5 billion over five years, an overall reduction of about 1%.
The average cut per household that faces reduced benefits would be about $30 per month, Dean said.