PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - The United States Department of Agriculture said 3.1 million Americans could lose their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits nationwide if a newly proposed rule takes effect.
“We are most likely looking at tens of thousands of Oregonians who’ll lose their benefits,” Jeff Kleen, a public policy advocate with the Oregon Food Bank said.
The Oregon Department of Human Services told FOX 12 it is still working to determine the exact number of households that will be affected.
Kleen said 15 percent of Oregonians struggle to put enough food on the table each day and for every meal the Oregon Food Bank provides those in need, SNAP provides 12.
He fears, if the USDA reduces the number of people eligible for SNAP, it will significantly increase demand at local food pantries and the number of people going hungry across our state.
But, the USDA said the rule is needed to close a loophole, known as the ‘Nominal Benefits Loophole.’
Currently, those who qualify for the federal income-based Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, or welfare are automatically eligible to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to receive food stamps, without having their income and expenses verified a second time.
The Trump Administration wants to change that policy to ensure SNAP benefits are targeted to the appropriate households.
Kleen opposes the plan. He said those in the TANF program are vetted once to ensure their net income is at or below the poverty line.
“There’s really no reason for a family to go through an entire application process again,” Kleen told FOX 12. According to him, “that’s a burden on them and it’s also a burden on DHS case workers.”
But, a USDA press release sites a case in which a Minnesota millionaire successfully signed up for and received SNAP benefits. The agency claims it is proof taxpayer money is being wasted.
“It is incredibly rare and it’s unfortunate that single cases like that are held out, even by the secretary of agriculture, as a reason to make a change that will impact 3 million people,” Kleen said
He told FOX 12 even more concerning are the additional changes in the proposal.
“Right now, if someone is earning up to 185% of the federal poverty level, they can still apply for snap," he said.
Kleen went on to explain that although earning almost two times more than the poverty level may sound like a lot, when you factor in the high cost of living in a city like Portland and a family’s overall expenses, their net income could still fall below the poverty level.
Yet, under the proposed rule someone earning more than 130 percent of the poverty level could not even apply for SNAP.
“If people lose SNAP we know they more than likely will be turning to the statewide Oregon Food Bank network,” Kleen said. Although, according to him, the network is happy to help, “SNAP is really the number one defense against hunger in America.”
The USDA is asking for feedback on the proposal. It set a up an online page where users will have 60 days to give their feedback. To share your opinion on the matter, visit: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FNS-2018-0037-0001.
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