Tens of thousands of Texans may struggle to feed themselves and their families if the Trump administration goes through with a proposed rule change for food stamp benefits.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced its intention to close a “loophole” in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. By the department’s own estimate, the proposed rule change would kick 3.1 million people off of SNAP.
Celia Cole, the CEO of Feeding Texas, a nonprofit network of 21 food banks that feeds more than 3 million Texans annually, told the Signal she was horrified by the news.
She said Feeding Texas estimated 125,000 Texans would be cut from SNAP benefits if the Trump administration rule change were to occur.
“Anytime we hear a significant number of people might lose access to SNAP, we worry about our ability to meet that need,” Cole said. “Hunger doesn’t just go away because you cut a nutrition program.”
The proposed rule change aims to change the relationship between SNAP and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF), commonly referred to as just welfare.
Under the current rules, states are free to automatically enroll people on food stamps if they’ve also successfully applied to TANF or other welfare programs. This 20-year-old policy, known as “broad-based categorical eligibility,” allows states to have some freedom in determining which needy families in their state are eligible for federal benefits.
For example, under federal rules, families can only be eligible for food stamps if they have under $2,250 in savings. But in Texas, families can save up to $5,000 and still receive food stamps.
The new rule changes would tighten state flexibility, making it so that only families receiving at least $50 a month in welfare benefits can automatically qualify for food stamps.
Critics of the Trump administration’s rule change say that’s why it would impact working families earning just above the poverty line the most.
“You don’t have to just be starving to feel the effects of hunger, you can be a family that’s just dealing with the stress of worrying about affording food that can have really lasting effects on kids,” Cole said. “At the end of the day, that means a less healthy, less educated, less productive workforce for Texas.”
The USDA will allow Americans to comment on the proposed rule change for 60 days before moving forward.