Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made it clear Wednesday that the Trump administration wants significant changes in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.
SNAP is the largest ticket item in the farm bill and Republican lawmakers have already been signaling that they want to reduce spending on the program that helps more than 40 million people buy groceries every year.
Perdue, during several stops on a visit to Pennsylvania, stressed that the program must change to transition more people off of the assistance. (Perdue is pictured above with Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.)
“I think there’s more understanding of the purpose of moving people through the … program from dependency to an independent lifestyle,” Perdue told reporters during a tour of a creamery at Penn State University. “As we prepare people to get back into the workplace, many of which have not been there, I think it will fulfill the real purpose of (SNAP).”
Perdue’s views on SNAP reform were included in USDA’s 2018 Farm Bill & Legislative Principles report that was delivered to Congress today.
“Support work as the pathway to self-sufficiency, well-being and economic mobility for individuals and families receiving supplemental nutrition assistance,” the document states as one of its principles for the program.
Opponents of any cuts to SNAP point out that most people who use the program are already employed and the number of people getting the benefits has been declining steadily for four years.
About 42 million people received SNAP benefits in fiscal year 2017 at a cost of almost $64 billion. That’s down from about 44 million people at a cost of $71 billion in 2016.
There were no details in the USDA’s farm bill report, but Perdue said he wants to see national restrictions tightened on “able-bodied adults without dependents.” People in this category – referred to under the acronym ABAWDS – are only eligible to get 90 days of SNAP benefits every three years if they are not employed, but some states waive that restriction.
Perdue said he’d like to see fewer waivers.
“While America is a very generous and compassionate nation, I think there is an expectation that if people are able to work in this economy … then there should be an expectation of that,” Perdue said after touring the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.
Food bank officials warned that any cuts to SNAP would overload their ability to distribute food to the needy because demand would rise.