The Trump Administration's new rule tightening work requirements for people receiving food benefits will harm 35,000 people in Massachusetts. Who are they?
In Massachusetts, 35,000 adults stand to lose SNAP benefits—the effect of the Trump Administration's finalized rule to tighten work requirements for able-bodied adults without children to receive SNAP (food stamps).
Who are they? They are veterans, people who are homeless, recent high school graduates, former foster care youth, individuals with undiagnosed mental illnesses, individuals re-entering the workforce after incarceration and indeed, any unmarried and able-boded adult who is out of a job. This is a diverse group who face barriers to work full time, and have become an easy target for the administration to attack. Cutting them off from their basic human needs is misguided and counterproductive to moving them toward self-sufficiency.
This week, we received a call from a young man who heard about the changes and is rightfully worried about what it could mean for him. He's been been working a part time job for the last eight months. Last year he worked full time at the airport, but the government shutdown affected his job and he ended up having to go without pay for weeks at a time. He couldn't pay rent and was forced out of his studio apartment. He's been living out of the car he uses to drive to his current job. His employer doesn't even know he's experiencing homelessness.
He relies on SNAP to eat, and told us he's able to use the benefits to get cold sandwiches, fruit, soups, and frozen meals he can heat up at work. He uses the rest of his paycheck to purchase the gas he needs to get to work, and to maintain a relatively inexpensive membership at a gym so that he can shower each day.
He's been saving up, but knows it will be a while before he has enough money to afford first and last month's rent and the security deposit that is necessary to get a new apartment. Although working now, he's concerned about his car. It's in rough shape, if it breaks down, he'll be out of work again. He fears when this happens, he'll lose any progress he's made to get back on his feet, as well as the saftey-net SNAP provides him to have food to eat.
This is just one example out of thousands, we respond to similar stories day after day. Last year we received more than 20,000 calls from food insecure residents looking for help. When someone has lost or cannot find a job, we assist them in signing up for SNAP, which is the first line of defense against hunger for the majority of our low-income callers. It is the most dignified and effective solution. According to Feeding America, for every one meal a food bank can provide, SNAP provides 12, and the Center on Budget Policies and Priorities reports that SNAP has kept an average of 141,000 Massachusetts residents out of poverty between 2009 and 2012. The Trump Administration's attempt to tighten work requirements for SNAP eligibility will only exacerbate hunger and poverty. At the very least, it is entirely counterproductive. The best way to support those searching for work is to make sure that they have enough to eat.
Unless Congress or the courts intervene, this rule is set to go into effect on April 1st, 2020.