In another example of the Trump Administration using the bureaucracy to circumvent intransigent House Democrats, the Department of Agriculture is taking steps to cut food stamp benefits for 3 million Americans by limiting a state's ability to automatically enroll residents who also receive welfare benefits.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the states "have misused this flexibility," Bloomberg reports.
"We are changing the rules, preventing abuse of a critical safety net system, so those who need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it," Perdue added.
In a potential complication, the Department of Agriculture has proposed this rule change just as the Trump Administration is touting a deal with Congressional Democrats to lift spending caps as part of a compromise to raise the Debt Ceiling.
House Republicans tried cutting food stamps last year when Congress renewed the program, but the Senate rejected the cuts.
The new rule would limit states' ability to enroll benefits recipients earning more than 130% of the federal poverty line. It would also introduce new means testing; in most cases, this means a family of four would need to be earning less than $32,640 to qualify.
Forty states and Washington DC currently use alternative criteria allowing participants in other government programs to be automatically enrolled in their food stamps program, so long as their incomes are less than double the poverty level. Federal officials contend that in some cases, individuals are enrolled in food stamps programs despite receiving only federal benefits of minimal value, like brochures.
The new regulations, which will be released on Tuesday, would require that recipients receive benefits worth at least $50 a month on an ongoing basis for at least six months to qualify for automatic enrollment in food stamps. Other than cash, the only other benefits that would qualify are subsidized employment, subsidized transportation to work, and child care. The new restrictions would save the federal government $2.5 billion a year, and would eliminate coverage for 3 million people, though enrollment has declined as the economy has improved, and the number of SNAP - supplemental nutritional assistance program - beneficiaries has declined YoY. As of April, 36 million Americans received food stamps, at an average monthly cost of $121 per person.
As soon as the new rule is released, expect Democrats to go apoplectic.