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Proposed USDA rule will impact Washington nutrition assistance program benefits

Advocates said the rule threatens to cut SNAP benefits to 79% of households in Washington state.

A new rule proposed by federal regulators could impact hundreds of thousands of Washington state families who benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps.

Under proposed rules by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), households could see a reduction in an average of $47 monthly, which in turn may cause an increased need for outside food support systems like food banks.

The USDA said the changes come after a 2017 study that focused on the Standard Utility Allowance (SUA), a measure of heating and cooling costs that dictates a household’s monthly allowance.

The proposed rules would standardize benefit calculation nationwide, eliminating discretion at the state level. Advocates for SNAP stress that because energy costs vary between cities, evaluation on a state-by-state basis is necessary.

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SNAP advocates said the rule threatens to cut benefits to 79% of households in Washington state.

Washington currently uses a mandatory utility allowances system, which reduces workload and administrative costs on the state's side. But the new measure would require households to verify utility expenses to receive their allowance. This adds more work for both the employees giving SNAP aid and the people receiving it.

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SNAP in Washington serves over 4,000 pregnant individuals, 13,000 infants, 160,000 minors, 125,000 elderly individuals, and 100,000 employed individuals.