Experts fear proposed rule change puts SNAP benefits at risk

Mike Dougherty
September 28, 2019 - 11:52 am

PHILADELPHIA -- People who advocate for low-income families are sounding the alarm over a proposed rule change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue proposed new eligibility requirements for SNAP, and experts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey say hundreds of thousands of people will go hungry if the changes are implemented.

"Two-hundred-thousand Pennsylvanians would be affected by this rule alone -- 3.1-million Americans," said Amy Goldstein, Nutrition Manager at the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.

She says seniors with $3,500 in assets are currently eligible, but the rule change would eliminate SNAP for people with savings, and she says it could be catastrophic.

"It really is putting families and seniors in a position of deciding 'well, should I just spend down my savings' versus letting them save and build towards a future."

The savings threshold is even lower for working families at $2,250, and a car is considered an asset. Experts say parents often rely on SNAP benefits for food because child care costs can really blow up the budget.

A car counts as an asset, and so does money saved for funerals and medical emergencies.

"That is really unfair that somebody who is being responsible to build up savings now can't get food on the table and now has to spend down those savings, putting a further drain on the system later on," Goldstein said.

New Jersey DHS commissioner Carole Johnson, Senator Bob Casey and congressional leaders are among the many who have sent letters to express their concerns, and while each letter must be considered, the USDA has final say on whether to implement the rule changes or not.