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Everybody who asks for SNAP should get it

Published: 1/9/2020 6:00:48 PM

Modified: 1/9/2020 6:00:11 PM

How about this? Instead of taking away the measly $1.38 per meal that recipients of the Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP) receive from the federal government, let’s open this program to all who say they need it.

That’s what food pantries, community meals and pay-what-you-can cafes do. They welcome all comers, and we haven’t heard that anyone is abusing that privilege. It’s not a club people are dying to get into.

Such largesse would actually be cheaper than the Trump administration’s decision to scour the assistance rolls for able-bodied adults without dependents who do not work 20 hours per week. “We need everyone who can work to work,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a recent press release.

At first glance, this might seem like a good idea. Work has many benefits, such as getting you out in the community. But if you don’t own your own car or live on a bus route, you cannot get to that job. If that job is seasonal (think: holiday retail or farm labor), your SNAP benefits will be, too. Even the geographical exemptions are being tightened, so if you live in a remote town without jobs, that’s no excuse.

Democratic Congressman James P. McGovern, who represents the Second Congressional District and is a leading voice for ending hunger in the United States, said the move has nothing to do with moving Americans toward self-sufficiency, like the administration touts. He said he’s been to many hearings on the matter and never heard anyone tell him that being hungry made it easier for them to find a job.

“The fact is, able-bodied adults without dependents are a complicated group of people on which we have little data,” McGovern said. “What we do know is many in this group are veterans who are returning from service, while many others are workers who aren’t given 20 hours of work per week, yet USDA has done no research on how this new rule will impact these vulnerable Americans. The Trump administration ought to know more about this population before they literally take food off their tables.”

The administration’s new rule, which goes into effect April 1, would affect an estimated 300 people in Franklin and Hampshire counties and make it more difficult for states to waive the federal program’s work requirements.

To protect all recipients, MassHire Franklin Hampshire Career Center and a social service agency, Community Action Pioneer Valley, are working with clients to make sure no one loses their SNAP benefits come April 1. MassHire Executive Director Teri Anderson said, “We’re trying to reach out to everyone now, before the new rules go into effect, so that no one loses their benefits.”

“It just isn’t the way to go,” said Danna Boughton, coordinator of community resources and advocacy at Community Action Pioneer Valley. “People need stable housing and food.”

Truly, of all the draconian policies enacted by the Trump administration, constricting the SNAP program is the most mean-spirited. You can be out of work and still hungry. At $1.38 per meal, no one’s eating high off the hog on their SNAP benefits. Let’s advocate for loosening, not tightening, SNAP assistance.

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