HARTFORD, CT — The Connecticut Department of Social Services estimates there are about 11,000 state residents who would lose their food stamps if a proposed Trump administration rule change is adopted.
There are currently about 364,000 Connecticut residents who receive food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.
The estimated 11,000 residents who would lose their benefits have gross incomes of 131% of the federal poverty level or higher. The department is unable to estimate what would happen if an asset test was applied, but it would likely lead to many more Connecticut residents getting kicked off the program.
Currently, the federal government allows states like Connecticut to have a higher gross income-eligibility limit — Connecticut’s is 185% of the federal poverty level — and it doesn’t force states to adopt an asset-eligibility test. If this proposed rule were to go through, states would be forced to limit the income to 130% of the federal poverty level or about $1,316 per month for a household of one, or $2,720 for a household of four. It would also be forced to re-institute an asset limit of $2,250 for all households under most circumstances.
Connecticut currently does not request or capture asset information for a majority of SNAP households so there’s no way to immediately determine how many additional residents would be removed if the new rule is adopted, David Dearborn, a spokesman at the Department of Social Services explained in an email.
Deb Polun, executive director of the Connecticut Association for Community Action, Inc., said they will be urging the administration to reconsider this rule change, “which would have a detrimental effect on people.”
Polun said people cannot be productive members of society if they don’t have access to nutritious food which impacts the health and quality of a person’s life.
Introducing an asset program will also make the program more costly for states to administer because it would require them to determine eligibility based on that information.
The proposed rule, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that administers the program, would “fix a loophole that has expanded SNAP recipients in some states to include people who receive assistance when they clearly don’t need it.”
“For too long, this loophole has been used to effectively bypass important eligibility guidelines. Too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “The American people expect their government to be fair, efficient, and to have integrity — just as they do in their own homes, businesses, and communities. That is why we are changing the rules, preventing abuse of a critical safety net system, so those who need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it.”
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has advised against the move.
The group said the proposed rule change would discourage some recipients from earning additional income and weaken SNAP’s role in supporting work while making it harder for families that struggle to get by on low wages to meet their basic needs.
The addition of an asset test, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, would penalize families with children, seniors, and people with disabilities who have modest savings by eliminating their food assistance.
“Building modest assets allows low-income families to avoid accumulating debt and to be better financially prepared for old age and unforeseen events, such as a home or car repair or the loss of a job in a recession,” the group said in a statement on their website.
About 12% of the U.S. population, or 40 million people, rely on SNAP benefits.
“The latest proposal from this administration is just plain cruel: they are choosing to give trillions of dollars in tax cuts to those who don’t need it, while taking away food assistance from those who need it most,” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy. said “I’ll do all I can to stop these attacks on hard-working American families trying to make ends meet.”
In Connecticut, 78% of all SNAP households either are working or have worked in the past year. and low-income children on SNAP are 18% more likely to graduate from high school, according to Murphy’s office.
However, in 2016 the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said eliminating the broad-based categorical eligibility “would increase the complexity and time involved in verifying information on SNAP applications, probably resulting in more errors. Adopting that approach would also increase the paperwork for applicants.”