Trump’s Plan to Kick People Off Food Stamps Is an “Attack on the Poor,” Activists Say

By Mike Ludwig

Last April, advocates for low-income people in West Virginia sent a letter to state officials who were preparing to drop more than 1,500 people from the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as SNAP or food stamps), demanding that an exemption be made for the homeless.

The state had decided to reinstate a federal rule in several counties requiring people without registered disabilities or dependent children to work at least 20 hours a week in order to receive food stamps longer than three months. The advocates argued West Virginia should follow the lead of other states and exempt houseless people from the requirement, because they face structural barriers to employment and often do not have a place to store their belongings while at work.

“While this may be workable for some homeless individuals, it is truly a Hobson’s choice for the homeless SNAP recipient: Either risk losing their possessions by leaving those items unattended during 20-plus hours of work per week, or lose their source of food under the SNAP program by failing to satisfy the SNAP work requirements,” the letter states.

West Virginia officials initially agreed to make the exemption, but it was dropped three months later, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Homeless individuals must now have their eligibility for SNAP evaluated on a case-by-case basis, which can mean additional office visits and paperwork for people who may have lost personal documents to theft or misplacement while living without stable housing.

This problem could be replicated across the country if President Trump has his way. Mirroring policies extolled by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, the White House budget proposal released this week would phase work requirements back into the SNAP program nationally, while slashing funding for it and other safety-net programs like Medicaid by hundreds of billions of dollars. The news has outraged advocates for the struggling and hungry.

“So, SNAP is what keeps families afloat, it helps people put food on the table … it is the cornerstone program that prevents hunger in this country and lifts people out of poverty,” said Michelle Stuffmann, spokesperson for the Jewish anti-hunger group MAZON, in an interview with Truthout. “That anyone would want to prevent people from putting food on the table is horrifying.”

In all, Trump’s budget proposal would cut $1.7 trillion from virtually every program that helps reduce poverty and support the working class over the next decade, in order to “balance the budget” and pay for tax cuts that benefit the wealthy, according to White House documents and advocacy groups. Funding for SNAP would drop by at least $191 billion — a 25 percent cut — by shifting costs to states, cutting eligibility for millions of households and reducing benefits for many more.

“This is an attack on the poor,” said Nune Phillips, a policy analyst with the Center for Law and Social Policy, which advocates for low-income people and families.

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