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Proposed Trump administration rules could throw 3.7 million people off food stamps, new study says

The Trump administration's proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) could strip 3.7 million low-income Americans of their food stamps and slash benefits for millions of others, according to a new study released last week by the Urban Institute.

The analysis said that had the rules been implemented last year, the number of people receiving benefits would have fallen by 3.7 million people in an average month, or around 9.4%. That would also cut the benefits paid under the program by $4.2 billion.

Nearly 40 million people currently receive food stamps, according to the Department of Agriculture.

According to the study, 12 states and the District of Columbia would be particularly hard-hit as the average number of households benefitting from the program would drop by at least 15 percent. They included California, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Washington and Wisconsin.

Nevada and the District of Columbia, though, would undergo the highest reductions— 22% and 24%, respectively. The study also estimated 2.2 million households would lose eligibility and the monthly $127 in average benefits it brings.

“Households without children, older members, or members with disabilities would be most likely to lose eligibility,” said Laura Wheaton, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute who authored the study, and noted a quarter of them would be forced out.

Nearly one million schoolchildren would lose access to free lunch under the program, the analysis found, an estimate backed up by other government figures.

The Trump administration has attempted to change how Americans receive food stamps, and over the past year, the Agriculture Department rolled out three proposed changes for the SNAP program.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a pen after signing an executive order next to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue during a roundtable discussion with farmers at the White House in Washington, U.S. April 25, 2017.

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

They would tighten work requirements for people to become eligible, restrict the ability of states to automatically enroll families onto the program when they already receive federal aid, and cap deductions for utility allowances.

Critics have attacked the planned reforms and said it would make it harder for low-income and poor Americans to afford food for themselves and their families, leaving them worse-off.

But Agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue defended the changes in a USA Today op-ed in December last year, saying that drawing welfare benefits was “never intended to be a way of life” and said the administration was seeking to help people become independent.

“A central theme of the Trump administration has been to expand prosperity for all Americans, which includes helping people lift themselves out of pervasive poverty,” Perdue wrote. “Assisting people toward lives of independence and self-sufficiency is a worthy pursuit along that path.”

Last year, the average SNAP recipient received around $127 each month, or around $4.17 a day to purchase food, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. People draw benefits according to their need, so beneficiaries earning lower incomes draw more aid from SNAP. More than two-thirds of beneficiaries are in families with children.

SNAP, combined with other food assistance programs, made up of around $68 billion in government spending in fiscal year 2018.