The Trump administration on Wednesday announced new rules requiring more recipients of food assistance to perform work in exchange for receiving benefits.
The new requirements are expected to cut benefits for hundreds of thousands of people, which has drawn the ire of critics.
The rule will limit states’ ability to exempt adults who are eligible for and capable work to obtain steady employment in order to continue receiving benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
The program helps feed some 36 million Americans, reports noted.
The announced rule on Wednesday is one of three proposals by the administration to cut back on the food stamp program overall.
Taxpayers fund the program to the tune of around $80 billion per year for fiscal 2020. President Trump has made scaling back the programs a priority.
The final rule, announced Wednesday, will limit the ability of states to exempt work-eligible adults from having to obtain steady employment in order to receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps feed more than 36 million Americans.
Brandon Lipps, deputy under secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Nutrition and Consumer Services, said tightening the work requirement would save roughly $5.5 billion over five years. It would also cut benefits for roughly 688,000 SNAP recipients.
Secretary Sonny Perdue said the rule will help move people “from welfare to work.”
“We want to encourage people by giving them a helping hand, but not an infinitely giving hand,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized the administration’s decision in a tweet.
“Today, the Trump Administration announced a new rule that would potentially throw hundreds of thousands off food assistance, driving the vulnerable into hunger just as the Christmas season begins,” he wrote.
“This is cruel and exposes a deep and shameful hypocrisy in this administration.”
Under current rules, work-eligible able-bodied adults without dependents and between the ages of 18 and 49 can currently receive only three months of SNAP benefits in a three-year period if they don’t meet the 20-hour work requirement.
However, states with high unemployment rates or a demonstrable lack of sufficient jobs can waive those time limits.
In 1996, Congress passed a bipartisan welfare reform bill that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. He said the law would end “welfare as we know it.”
The “welfare-to-work,” or “Workfare,” bill as it was called, was credited with moving millions of Americans off welfare an into the workforce.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the number of families receiving cash welfare assistance plunged by more than 60 percent, from more than 5.1 million families in March 1994 to 2.0 million in December 2010.
President Barack Obama loosened the work requirements in 2012, however, by allowing states to apply for waivers. The change led to a steady uptick in welfare rolls.