Wolf admin says SNAP restriction could impact 200,000 Pennsylvanians

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at a campaign rally for Pennsylvania candidates in Philadelphia, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at a campaign rally for Pennsylvania candidates in Philadelphia, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Democratic state lawmakers are criticizing the Trump Administration over its proposed plan to restrict Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for certain people.

They say the change amounts to a punishment for the poor.

Right now, people who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — or TANF — are also considered eligible for SNAP.

But the US Department of Agriculture is proposing limiting that eligibility to people who get at least $50 in TANF benefits per month.

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It would also limit the kind of non-cash benefits that make a person SNAP-eligible. Only subsidized employment, work supports, or childcare would be considered acceptable.

The USDA is pitching the change as a loophole closure that will allow more money to go to needier people.

In a press release, the department said the flexibility in SNAP eligibility rules were “egregious,” citing a case in which a Minnesota millionaire was able to successfully enroll.

Vince Hughes, a Democratic state senator from Philadelphia, said he vehemently disagrees with the USDA’s position, calling it, “Absolutely unnecessary, absolutely unconscionable, [and] absolutely immoral.”

Hughes sent a letter to the USDA saying as much. He said other Democrats will likely follow suit.

“These are fat-cat Republicans who just gave away the store with a huge tax break for their friends with their foot on the necks of poor people,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Democratic Governor Tom Wolf said it is difficult to definitively say how many Pennsylvanians would be impacted by the proposed SNAP restriction.

The governor’s office and state Department of Human Services said that Friday based on an initial analysis, about 200,000 people in over 120,000 households could potentially lose the benefit.

More than 1.7 million people use SNAP in Pennsylvania, according to the administration.

In a statement, Wolf echoed Hughes in calling the benefit restriction a “punishment for working families across America.”

“I oppose this ludicrous change that will hurt tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians, creating an undue burden and more food insecurity for families,” he said.

Wolf’s spokeswoman said the elderly and disabled and working families would be disproportionally affected by the proposed restriction.

She added, the departments of Human Services and Education plan to submit public comment opposing the rule change.

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