How the Trump-Backed ‘Farm Bill’ Will Hurt Women Food Stamp Recipients Most
In its latest move of hostility to low-income communities, the Trump administration announced Thursday that it is cracking down on recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also still sometimes referred to as food stamps. The Associated Press reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a proposed rule change that will roll back existing provisions that allow states to provide SNAP to adults who are work-eligible but do not have steady work. In other words: The USDA intends to make it possible for states to deny SNAP to people in need if those people don’t have a job.
This proposed rule change, which comes less than one week before Christmas — a time when there’s typically more emphasis on caring for low-income communities rather than further burdening them — will have a devastating impact on many low-income people. The legislation driving this change, the Agricultural Improvement Act (often referred to in the news as “the farm bill“), was signed by President Trump Thursday afternoon.
Most SNAP recipients live at or below the poverty line, and are elderly, disabled, or children. According to USDA data from the 2013 fiscal year, some 47.6 million people received SNAP benefits. About 63 percent of SNAP recipients were women (and, contrary to racist claims linking African-Americans to food stamp use, only 25.7 percent of SNAP recipients were Black — most were white).
Not all current SNAP recipients are “income-eligible” (like, for example, the elderly), so they would not necessarily be directly impacted by this particular rule change. But the figures give some indication of just how many people without income or with very little income need SNAP.
Allowing states to further limit the scope of who can receive SNAP benefits will have significant ramifications for women and children. The USDA reported for the 2013 fiscal year that 61 percent of non-elderly adult recipients of SNAP were women.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal DC-based think tank, said in a July policy brief that the House Farm Bill will be especially detrimental to women caretakers and women with disabilities, including mental illness.
“Many working women receiving SNAP have jobs with low pay, high turnover, and poor benefits, such as home health workers, nursing home staff, custodial staff, and cashiers,” reads the brief. The nature of these women’s jobs also means that it could be difficult to prove how much they have been working each month, and thus difficult to receive the amount of aid they need.
This is hardly the first crackdown involving SNAP the administration has produced. In August, Stephen Miller, a top aide to President Trump and an advocate against the migration of people of color to the US, proposed regulations that would make it even more challenging for undocumented immigrants to get a green card if they have ever participated in welfare programs including the Affordable Care Act and SNAP. Immigration rights advocates told NBC over the summer that this move would be one of the biggest setbacks for immigrants in decades, and estimated that 20 million immigrants could suffer more as a result.
In February, the administration suggested it also wants to control the food that SNAP participants are able to access. The administration said it wants to provide pre-determined packages of food to replace about half of the monthly food benefits for SNAP recipients, who are currently able to use EBT cards to purchase eligible foods at grocery and other food stores. The “USDA food packages” proposal was roundly rebuked by those who rely on SNAP and advocates for the rights of low-income people.
Right now, the administration is going after those who are “work-eligible,” seeking to deny them of access to enough food to feed themselves and their families, but more limitations are likely.
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