Sonny Purdue published a letter this morning in the local Tucson paper outlining what he feels is a "need for SNAP benefits to be structured to work with our changing economy, not be stuck in the past. This is why I made it a top priority to ensure people have the tools they need to move away from SNAP dependency and back toward self-sufficiency."
The Trump administration is trying, once again, to move people away from food stamps. The push isn’t new, but it’s getting new attention due to an Urban Institute study that concluded the rules, if they’d been in place last year, would have reduced the main federal food aid program’s rolls by 3.7 million people — as well as cut food stamp spending by about $4.2 billion. Remember that number for later.
There’s a lot of wonkery in exactly how the administration’s rules would affect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — “SNAP” in policy-circle shorthand and “food stamps” for just about everyone else. But the gist is that they would require more people to work a certain number of hours in order to get food stamps, place limits on how long some people can remain on the program, and change the rules for enrollment. There are also a lot of experts arguing over whether the people losing benefits really deserved to have them to begin with.
There are two main arguments conservatives have marshalled in support of food stamp cuts, and they’re both dishonest.
1) Work requirements are often touted as an effort to nudge (starve) people into self-sufficiency. That ignores the fact that women working at minimum wage jobs don't make enough to pay for day care and commuting expenses, so the choice is either (1) work and ignore your kids or (2) stay home and make no money.
2) The other argument for making it harder for poor people to buy food is somehow even flimsier. And that’s the need for fiscal responsibility when it comes to the federal budget. The United States government this year will spend nearly $1 trillion more than it takes in, financing the rest by borrowing money.
This isn’t a particularly credible argument, given that the deficit could be shrunk by raising taxes on the wealthy and upper middle class, or on the corporations whose poverty wages leave millions of working Americans dependent on government programs. But it’s revealed to be a comically disingenuous argument once you remember the Trump administration’s signature domestic “achievement”: tax breaks that will add at least $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years.
SNAP benefits vary by state. of course, but the eligibility and income requirements for Arizona exemplify why the program is still a vital lifeline for families.
For starters, the MINIMUM benefit is $16 for 1 or 2 people. In order to qualify, you need to be below the Federal Poverty Guideline. A married couple in Arizona would qualify for $355 per month. However, from that total, you need to subtract 30% of your net income. If a retired couple had a combined social Security income of $1410 (the federal poverty line) they would need to subtracts $423 from their food stamp allotment, which would leave them with NOTHING except for the $16 minimum benefit. The only way they would collect $355 for food stamps is if they had NO INCOME AT ALL.
To be blunt, how do you become self sufficient if you have no income? Even if you are living exclusively on ramen noodles, you still are going to spend more than $16 a month, and the amount of food you would get at the local food bank (which you can only visit once a month) does not provide you with enough food to get you through the month.