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Here’s How Trump Would Cut Billions From Food Stamps Program

Thomas Phippen on May 23, 2017

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal released Tuesday includes suggestions for saving approximately $193 billion on food stamps over the next decade.

The dramatic proposal makes for strong headlines about harming the poor, but the process for cutting benefits in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also called food stamps, would require a lot of congressional involvement. (RELATED: Trump’s Proposed Budget Includes A Sharp Cut To Medicaid With A Big Boost In Defense Spending)

SNAP is a mandatory entitlement program run by the Department of Agriculture, meaning Congress has no control over the amount the federal government spends each year on benefits.

Congress can, however, adjust the SNAP program requirements in appropriations bills, which is what Trump’s budget suggests.

Trump’s budget proposal “includes a number of legislative proposals that are designed to target benefits to those who need them while ensuring careful stewardship of taxpayers’ money.”

Food stamp enrollment peaked in 2013 at 47 million people after former President Barack Obama and Congress allowed states to waive work requirements for the benefits as a post-recession recovery measure. Many states have reinstated work requirements, and 44 million people still receive food stamps, according to the USDA. (RELATED: Work Requirement Trigger Predictable Drop In Arkansas Food Stamp Enrollment)

The number of people on food stamps is not dropping fast enough, Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters Monday, and the budget proposal calls for ending all waivers that allow able-bodied workers without dependents to receive food stamps.

“They have not come down like we would expect them to do,” Mulvaney said. “In fact, they stayed at very elevated levels. I think that raises a valid question: Are there folks on SNAP who shouldn’t be? We do have an able-bodied requirement.”

The budget “seeks to ensure that those who can work, do work by limiting the use of waivers that exempt able-bodied adults without dependents from work requirements,” according to the budget.

Each state would also help alleviate the burden on federal coffers, under Trump’s plan, by paying a 25 percent share of the food stamps benefits for their state. Trump’s proposal “funding structure by requiring States to cover, on average, 25 percent of SNAP benefits, phased in between 2020 and 2023,” which would create “an incentive for States to manage benefit costs as they make operational choices available to them under the law.”

Congress is currently debating changes to the food stamps program as it seeks to renew the farm appropriations act, also known as the Farm Bill, in 2018.

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