New Trump administration rule could take food stamps away from 12,000 N.J. residents

Posted Dec 04, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced new rules on Wednesday that could leave 12,000 New Jerseyans without the food stamps they now receive.

The new rules make it harder for states to waive the current restrictions on able-bodied adults without dependents, who can receive benefits only for three months in three years unless they have a job or are in school or a job training program for 20 hours a week.

Carole Johnson, New Jersey’s human services commissioner, said the rule takes away the flexibility that states now have to help residents in need beyond the three-month limit under what is now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“To take away that flexibility at a time when the New Jersey economy is improving and we are helping people get on a better financial footing is simply wrong,” Johnson said. "This will set back the work we have done to help these New Jerseyans and will put more pressure on food banks and others across the state to try to fill in the gaps. It is simply bad policy.”

The state currently has 673,966 residents receiving food stamps, according to the Human Services Department.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue said the new rules were designed to move more people who are able to work into jobs in a growing economy.

“Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream,” Purdue said “We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand.”

“This rule lays the groundwork for the expectation that able-bodied Americans re-enter the workforce where there are currently more job openings than people to fill them,” Purdue said.

But the new rules affect only the “poorest of the poor,” said Ray Castro, health policy director for New Jersey Policy Perspective, a progressive research group.

“Hunger will likely increase in the future in New Jersey,” Castro said. “Even if adults are playing by all the rules and looking for work, they will now be much more likely to lose all of their nutritional assistance. Most of these individuals live in very low-income urban and rural localities that simply do not have the resources to provide the help these New Jerseyans will need.”

The Trump administration has proposed other changes to the nutrition program as well, which combined would result in 68,000 New Jersey residents losing assistance. The moves came after Congress rejected House Republican efforts to change the food stamp program in a way that would have taken benefits from 35,000 New Jersey residents.

Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-2nd Dist., said he would move to overturn the food stamp rule under the Congressional Review Act, which gives lawmakers the power to reject new federal regulations.

“In America no one should go hungry," Van Drew said. “It is a sad day when our nation, the wealthiest in the world is not willing to take care of its most vulnerable citizens.”

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