CAMDEN, N.J. — Camden County Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez slammed the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposed rule to limit SNAP benefits calling it “yet another attempt to attack vulnerable Americans.”
“Most despicable of all, the proposal would immediately stop countless children from receiving free lunches in school, when we know that students who enter the classroom hungry are at an immediate disadvantage compared to their peers,” Rodriguez said in a statement.
Formerly known as Food Stamps, SNAP — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — helps low-income families buy the groceries they need to eat a healthy diet.
Households that currently receive substantial, ongoing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funded benefits are automatically eligible for SNAP benefits. The proposal will limit this automatic eligibility.
According to the USDA’s proposal, “the Food and Nutrition Act has clear parameters regarding the income and resource limits that SNAP households must meet, and categorical eligibility is intended to apply only when the conferring program has properly determined eligibility. Extending categorical eligibility to participants who have not been screened for eligibility compromises program integrity and reduces public confidence that benefits are being provided to eligible households.”
Rodriguez sees the “categorical eligibility” as giving states more flexibility.
“The ‘categorical eligibility’ program, which the administration is planning to eliminate, allows states to adjust the requirements for SNAP so that families who are already eligible for certain other forms of support (such as TANF) are immediately eligible for nutritional support as well,” she said.
Rodriguez is concerned that an abrupt stop to nutrition benefits would adversely affect the nearly 29,000 recipients in Camden County as well as millions of low-income households across the country.
“Eliminating this technical, but critical, part of the program would mean suddenly stopping SNAP assistance to approximately three million Americans, including here in Camden County,” Rodriguez said. “By the administration’s estimate, 80 percent of these individuals would lose their benefits solely on the grounds that they have generated personal savings and therefore fail the ‘asset test’ waived by nearly all states that utilize categorical eligibility.”
Rodriguez said that the Freeholder Board is “committed to protecting society’s most vulnerable citizens, which includes children and individuals with low incomes.”
“If the [Trump] administration has any interest at all in that goal, it must abandon this misguided and destructive position,” she said.