Shore congressman slams rule that will substantially limit federal food stamp program

A sign indicates a store that accepts the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP, the official name of the food stamp program. (File photo/The Columbus Dispatch/TNS)

A sign indicates a store that accepts the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP, the official name of the food stamp program. (File photo/The Columbus Dispatch/TNS)

A congressman representing the southern New Jersey shore is seeking to a resolution to reverse a new Trump administration rule that will reduce or eliminate the federal food stamp program for millions of recipients because it will tighten work requirements.

The move by the administration is first of three proposed rules targeting the Supplemental Nutrition Program, known as SNAP, to be finalized. The program feeds more than 36 million people.

Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-2nd, says he is offering a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to nullify the rule, which he calls “heartless,” and prevent similar rule-making from occurring in the future.

“In America no one should go hungry. It is a sad day when our nation, the wealthiest in the world is not willing to take care of its most vulnerable citizens,” he said in a statement. “The Congressional district that I represent is 40% of the entire state of New Jersey and mostly composed of rural, seasonal, and shore communities, and 12% of our households receive SNAP.”

The plan, announced Wednesday, will limit states from exempting work-eligible adults from having to maintain steady employment in order to receive benefits.

The Agriculture Department estimates the change would save roughly $5.5 billion over five years and cut benefits for roughly 688,000 SNAP recipients. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the rule will help move people “from welfare to work.”

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.

The new rule, which goes into effect in April, imposes stricter criteria states must meet in order to issue waivers. Under the plan, states can only issue waivers if a city or county has an unemployment rate of 6% or higher. The waivers will be good for one year and will require the governor to support the request.

Van Drew added that the program provides critical benefits to people who face obstacles to finding or retaining employment.

“Some of those obstacles include undiagnosed mental and physical health issues, lack of basic education or skills, irregular work schedules that do not guarantee a consistent number of hours each month, and jobs that do not pay a living wage,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.