Nearly 1 in 4 households with children in New York struggle from food hardships. Food scarcity can have devastating effects on the health, cognitive functioning, and overall well-being of children. As a nation, we should aim to find more ways to support vulnerable children and their families, not remove critical supports to families transitioning out of poverty.
The Trump administration recently issued a proposed rule that would remove food assistance from millions of Americans by making them ineligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as “food stamps”). The proposed rule, which does not need congressional approval, would eliminate the “Broad Based Categorical Eligibility Option,” which gives states the flexibility to provide SNAP benefits to millions of low-income households experiencing financial hardship and food scarcity. Forty states, including New York, currently use this categorical eligibility to increase access to SNAP and decrease costs of running the program. It is estimated that this rule change will remove SNAP benefits from approximately 3 million Americans.
SNAP is one of the nation’s largest anti-poverty programs. Over 40 million Americans in 2018 received support from this anti-hunger program, including 2.6 million New Yorkers and more than 113,000 residents of Monroe County. In New York State, more than 55% of SNAP participants are members of families with children. The SNAP program is a critical support for low-income families throughout the state and nation.
This proposed rule counteracts local efforts to reduce poverty in Rochester and Monroe County by increasing the effect of the benefits cliff for low-income families in our community.
The Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative aims to dramatically reduce the number of individuals in our community experiencing poverty. That effort, and many other attempts to fight poverty, focuses on helping low-income individuals raise their employment income. Working more hours, receiving raises and promotions at work, and maintaining stable employment are all keys to a family being able to sustain themselves financially and grow more economically secure. Our public policies should encourage this upward trajectory of earnings, and should be designed to ensure that the loss of benefits does not approach or exceed the value of additional income.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration’s proposal to eliminate the categorical eligibility option will instead make it more difficult for low-income families in our community to support themselves, and will create a new benefits cliff for workers face as they transition up from poverty. The chart below shows the current and prospective SNAP benefits received by a hypothetical Monroe County family of three, the Millers. The Miller’s SNAP benefit relies on many factors, including earnings, housing expenses, child care costs, and medical expenditures.
The Millers have $850 in rent and utilities expenses per month and receive assistance paying for child care. SNAP currently fully phases out for this family just above $30,500 per year, or 144% of the poverty threshold. If the proposed rule goes into effect, the Millers will lose all SNAP benefits when their annual income exceeds $27,729.
The Millers currently receive $62 per month in SNAP benefits at $27,729 (or 130% of the poverty threshold). If that family’s annual income increases by one dollar from $27,728 to $27,729, under the Trump administration’s proposed rule they’ll lose $744 in annual SNAP benefits. This benefits cliff will cause this family making $27,500 to have substantially greater resources than an equivalent one earning $28,000 per year.
The Millers will also lose access to a number of other local programs that use SNAP participation to identify families in need. A few examples are below (thanks to Alex Turner, Program Director of Family Resources Services at Catholic Family Center) –
The Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the SNAP program is counterproductive and harmful to millions of American families. The Children’s Agenda asks our partners in the community to submit comments by September 23rd urging the Trump administration to reconsider this proposed cut to the SNAP program.