By Kevin Deutsch
Thousands of Bronx residents stand to lose access to food stamps under new work requirements instituted by the Trump administration—part of a group of approximately 688,000 Americans expected to be impacted by the change.
Food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is a federal program that provides nutrition benefits to low-income individuals and families that are used to purchase food.
The new requirements, part of a USDA rule change, will affect people between the ages of 18 and 49 who do not have kids and are not disabled, government officials said. Current rules state that, in order to qualify for food stamps, people in that group must work at least 20 hours a week, for over three months, during a three-year period.
Before now, the government has allowed states to issue waivers to those requirements.
The rule change limits state waivers to areas with at least six percent unemployment. Unemployment in the Bronx was 5.6 percent as of October.
Nationally, unemployment is estimated at 3.6 percent.
“At the direction of President Donald J. Trump, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced a final rule to move more able-bodied recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) towards self-sufficiency and into employment,” the USDA said in a press release Wednesday. “The rule restores the system to what Congress intended: assistance through difficult times, not a way of life.”
The rule change takes effect April 1, officials said.
Local critics of the stricter policy include Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who Tweeted of the rule change:
“No one in New York City – or anywhere in the U.S. – should be going hungry. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers stand to lose access to #SNAP because of this heartless move from the Trump Administration.”
Research shows more than 26 percent of Bronx residents experience food insecurity—defined as being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
That percentage places the borough among the hungriest counties in the country, according to Hunger Free America, a national nonprofit group working to end domestic hunger.
The number includes more than 20 percent of all Bronx children, nearly 17 percent of working adults, and almost 24 percent of seniors, according to federal data analyzed by the group.