The Trump administration announced new rules on Wednesday that could leave 12,000 New Jerseyans without the food stamps they now receive.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program allows able-bodied adults with no dependents to receive assistance for three months during unemployment. The programme provides free food to 36 million Americans.
The move by the administration is the latest in its attempt to scale back the social safety net for low-income Americans.More news: NASA launching 'Robot Hotel' to the International Space Station
"For able-bodied adults without dependents, US law limits SNAP benefits to three months, unless recipients are working or in training for 20 hours a week", the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
States have previously been able to create waivers for people in high unemployment areas but the new Department of Agriculture rules removes that discretion and restricts waivers to areas that have unemployment rates of 6 percent or higher.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said the rule change will promote work across the country and push people toward self-sufficiency.More news: Chris Petersen steps down as Washington coach after six seasons
The food stamp program, however, already requires non-disabled, working-age adults without dependents to have jobs. A year ago the administration announced it would allow states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson also considered a proposal that would have tripled rents for the poorest Americans and allowed local governments to implement work requirements on those receiving housing assistance, but ultimately backed off the plan. States are now allowed to apply for waivers of the time limit, including areas with unemployment rates as low as 2.5%. "This rule lays the groundwork for the expectation that able-bodied Americans re-enter the workforce where there are now more job openings than people to fill them".
"This administration is out of touch with families who are struggling to make ends meet by working seasonal jobs or part time jobs with unreliable hours", said Stabenow, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry.
But the new rules affect only the "poorest of the poor", said Ray Castro, health policy director for New Jersey Policy Perspective, a progressive research group.More news: Scott McTominay Plays - Manchester United Team vs Tottenham Hotspur Confirmed
"This will limit a core strength of SNAP - its responsiveness to changes in economic conditions so that individuals who lose their source of income can quickly qualify for temporary food assistance", Greenstein said.