Residents signing up for food stamps in Minnesota are provided a brochure about domestic violence, but it doesn't matter if they even read the pamphlet. The mere fact it was made available could allow them to qualify for government food aid if their earnings or savings exceed federal limits.

As odd as that might sound, it's not actually unusual.

Thirty-eight other states also have gotten around federal income or asset limits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by using federal welfare grants to produce materials informing food stamp applicants about other available social services. Illinois, for example, produced a flyer briefly listing 21 services, a website and email address and a telephone number for more information.

The tactic was encouraged by former President Barack Obama's administration as a way for states to route federal food aid to households that might not otherwise qualify under a strict enforcement of federal guidelines. Now President Donald Trump's administration is proposing to end the practice -- potentially eliminating food stamps for more than 3 million of the nation's 36 million recipients.

The proposed rule change, outlined this past week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has highlighted the ideological clash between Trump's attempts to tighten government entitlement programs and efforts in some states to widen the social safety net.

It's also stirred outrage and uncertainty among some who stand to be affected.

"I think it's pretty rotten," said Lisa Vega, a single mother of two teenage boys in suburban Chicago who applied for food stamps last month after losing her job. Because she receives regular support payments from her ex-husband, Vega said her eligibility for food stamps likely hinges on the income eligibility exceptions that Trump's administration is trying to end.

"A lot of these politicians don't realize that us Americans out here are living paycheck to paycheck, one crisis away from being homeless," Vega said. "You're just going to take this kind of stuff away from us when we need it the most?"

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the proposed rule change is intended to close a "loophole" that states have misused to "effectively bypass important eligibility guidelines."

Current federal guidelines forbid people who make more than 130 percent of the poverty level from getting food stamps. But many states believe the cap is too restrictive, especially in cities with a high cost of living, prompting them to bypass the limits.

At issue is a federal policy that allows people who receive benefits through other government programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, to automatically qualify for the food aid program known as SNAP. The practice, called categorical eligibility, is intended partly to reduce duplicative paperwork. It has also allowed states to grant food stamps to more people.

In 2009, Obama's Agriculture Department sent a memo to its regional directors encouraging states to adopt what it termed as "broad-based categorical eligibility" for food stamps by providing applicants with a minimal TANF-funded benefit such as an informational pamphlet or telephone hotline.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.