The Safety Net is Under Attack

While the media is obsessed with the publication of Comey’s book and the threat to the Mueller investigation, Trump and the Republicans in Congress are taking a machete to the safety net for seniors, low-income and disabled Americans. President Trump has directed the federal agencies who administer social services to create new rules to make it harder to get federal assistance for housing, food aid and Medicaid. This is a broad ranging effort to limit aid to those in need. Meanwhile, House Republicans are rewriting the rules for SNAP in order to cutoff food assistance to millions of low income workers and those unable to work. (SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program but you probably know it as food stamps.) Join us in rallying the opposition to this unconscionable attack on our neighbors who live on the other side of income inequality.

The wealthy are prospering like never before in Trump’s America. As news reports document, the Republican “tax reform” bill is very generous to the rich and the super-rich. On the other hand Washington Republicans are working hard to keep the rest of America down. President Trump has directed all the Federal Departments that make up the social safety net to look for new ways to limit participation in safety net programs. It will be a while before this Executive Order translates into new legislative proposals, but last week’s order was a reminder that the President is actively hostile to anyone needing assistance to survive in the face of economic hardship.

Meanwhile a proposal developed by House Republicans on the Agriculture Committee gives a clear idea of what President Trump envisions for the future of the safety net. The bill includes at least a half dozen ways to make it harder for low-income families and individuals to get food assistance through SNAP.

This is a big deal. SNAP helped 41 million Americans in January 2018 and over 80% of benefits go to households with one or more children, a senior or a person with a disability. Sixteen percent of households in rural areas and small towns participate in SNAP compared to 13% in metro areas.

House Republicans are proposing that the 2018 Farm Bill strip critical food assistance by simply reducing the money going into the program and creating a bureaucratic maze that denies and limits help to potential beneficiaries. The bill would:

  • Expand already harsh time limits on eligibility, extend them to older workers (50 – 59) and to non-disabled adults caring for all but the youngest children; increase the number of required work hours each week, and increase the penalties for failure to comply - even when non-compliance is beyond the applicant’s control.
  • Limit the ability of states to ease eligibility limits where the states determine there are not enough jobs to employ the participants.
  • Decrease flexibility of the states to adjust income rules for families with high rent or childcare costs, deny the ability of states to streamline access to school meals for low-income students and limit their ability to adjust rules for people with high heating costs.
  • Increase requirements for monitoring compliance and shift money from providing benefits into new administrative costs.
  • Require states to provide work or training opportunities to meet the new work requirements, but the proposals do not provide enough funding to do so.  This will likely put new pressure on states to find ways to reduce the number of participants by whatever means they can.

SNAP helps people most in hard times and is very responsive to economic conditions.  In the current strong economy, 1.6 million SNAP participants left the program in 2017.  By restricting the program in these good economic times, Republicans are setting up an unnecessary disaster when the inevitable downturn comes.  Just when needed most, SNAP will be harder to obtain and keep.


Call To Action

Call your Representatives in the House and Senators. Let them know that you oppose the Republican SNAP proposals in the 2018 Farm Bill.

  • Express your strong support for SNAP and your rejection of these new requirements which do nothing to make the program more efficient, but instead make it harder for people of lesser means to meet the most basic of human needs – food.

Updates on this issue can be found at

Center for American Progress
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Food Research Action Center