SEATTLE — Advocates that help feed the hungry in the Northwest are voicing concerns that changes to federal food stamps will leave more people in need.
The Trump administration formalized changes to work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) on Wednesday. About 700,000 people will lose their benefits because of the changes, NBC News reports, with 60,000 of them in Washington State.
“My first thought is 'I just feel deep concern for the families and individuals that are impacted,'” said Christina Wong, Northwest Harvest’s director of public policy and advocacy.
The changes apply to adults between 18 and 49 years old who are not disabled and do not have children. States can currently waive the work requirements to help address areas with high unemployment, though these changes will make those waivers more limited.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said the changes are “to restore the dignity of work to a sizable segment of our population and be respectful of the taxpayers who fund the program…”
Wong worries it will increase the need here in the northwest. She says the USDA's federal definition of ‘able-bodied’ doesn’t account for a variety of circumstances people utilizing SNAP content with.
“These rules are based on the worst assumptions and stereotypes that people have about people that are on SNAP or food stamps,” she said. “In reality, we know that 1 in 9 Washingtonians rely on SNAP in order to put food on their table.”
“If they didn’t have SNAP, that’s meaning they’re having to skip meals, in order to put that money to less flexible costs – things like keeping their roof over their heads, paying for transportation to get them to work, paying for childcare, so they know their kids are someplace safe so they can work,” she added.
No timeline has been set for implementing the changes.