A sign alerting customers about SNAP benefits is displayed at a grocery store in New York City(Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images/Maryland Matters).
U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., is seeking answers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture about upcoming changes to the SNAP benefits program that will affect the eligibility of many people enrolled, and how the agency plans to communicate the changes.
Eligibility for SNAP benefits were changed by the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the result of negotiations between House Republicans and the White House over raising the country’s debt ceiling.
The FRA passed both chambers of Congress and President Joe Biden signed it on June 3, just days before the federal government would have run out of money to pay its bills, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Fetterman voted against the passage of the FRA, specifically because he objected to the new SNAP restrictions.
He was joined Monday on a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack by the five other Democrats on the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Food and Nutrition: Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Raphael Warnock of Georgia.
“We remain concerned about the changes to eligibility and increases to work requirements overall. By their own admission, the individuals who proposed these new work requirements and changes to eligibility did so as an exercise to reduce both the overall cost of SNAP and the number of individuals enrolled,” the letter states, referring to more draconian requirements originally proposed by Republicans.
“We are pleased at reports suggesting that this attempt to push more Americans into poverty failed, but as it stands, there are still information gaps on how the eligibility changes will impact food security for Americans by age, race, ethnicity, or gender,” the letter continues.
The debt ceiling deal included additional work requirements for adults without dependents between 18 and 55, with a sunset date of 2030. Veterans, people under 24 aging out of the foster care system, and people who are homeless would be exempted from the requirements.
Previously, anyone between 16 and 59 receiving federal nutrition aid was required to be looking for work, earning wages equivalent to 30 hours per week at minimum wage, or enrolled in a SNAP employment training program.
Some states can waive these requirements depending on unemployment figures and other factors. But those receiving SNAP who can’t meet the additional work requirements can only get benefits for three months over a three-year period.
The senators want to know the net change in national SNAP enrollment after the debt deal changes are implemented, if and when the USDA plans to release state-level assessments of the changes’ impact, and, how the agency plans to communicate changes in eligibility to people affected, since, as they note “many of these individuals may not have consistent access to the internet.
“It is crucial that bureaucracy and red tape not prevent timely notification of these changes to individuals who depend upon this program,” they added.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.