REDMOND, OR -- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may see reductions. The Trump Administration has proposed changes that would restrict eligibility. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the changes are necessary to prevent "abuse of a critical safety net system, so those who need food assistance the most are the ones who receive it."
Scott Cooper, Executive Director of NeighborImpact, says SNAP benefits help nearly 25,000 Central Oregonians. He tells KBND News, "The current rule is that if you're getting free school lunch or you're getting TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families], then the government just assumes that you would be eligible for SNAP; [it's] called categorical eligibility. They want to take that away and say, 'Well, you need to be going through and letting us make sure that you really are poor.' I'd argue that if you're getting free school lunch or TANF, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that you don't have enough money to buy all the meals that you need."
Cooper says the USDA proposal would kick people off the roles until they reapply for benefits, "Some portion of the folks will not go through the process of doing the paperwork, and [the administration] will be able to claim they reduced poverty roles, and increased prosperity; and that won't be a fair representation of what actually happened. What they really increased was paperwork, but that would be the position they'd likely take. I don't think it's necessarily good public policy, but it's good electioneering strategy."
He believes it could lead to some children losing their free lunch eligibility in school, "You will increase hunger and you will increase the challenge of kids in school not ready to learn." Cooper says SNAP can't be reduced without incurring unintended consequences. Grocery stores are often a community's largest employer, and decreasing SNAP benefits could lead to a reduction in employment opportunities, too, "And some of those people are the very people who end up needing public benefits because they're not always on the high end of the scale."
The USDA will accept public feedback on proposed changes to SNAP until September 23.