TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The Trump administration has officially finalized a new rule for those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
The rule applies to able-bodied adults with no dependents.
“Currently under the SNAP program there are certain job requirements that people have to abide by in order to receive SNAP,” said Tim Butler, the program services director for the East Texas Food Bank. “Specifically, people aged 18-49 without dependents and not care takers; they have to show 20 hours of work within a week in order to receive SNAP.”
But different states are able to get around that rule.
“There are things such as state waivers that states can apply for, for folks that live in high unemployment areas,” said Butler. “Currently the unemployment rate in the nation is 3.6, so if an area can show their unemployment rate is high they can give you a waiver. ‘I’ve been trying to get a job but I can’t get a job and I still really need this for food for my family.' A waiver can be given to them by the state. This new rule is going to limit the state’s ability to give out those waivers.”
As of Wednesday, in a call with reporters, the Department of agriculture estimated that 688,000 individuals would no longer be eligible for SNAP benefits. But, East Texans aren’t part of that population.
“Texas actually doesn’t use waivers," said Butler. “So none of the folks in Texas on SNAP are going to be impacted by this."
Butler said he’s still worried about the rule change.
“The bad news is we’re part of Feeding America and there are hundreds of thousands of people that are food insecure across America that very much rely on this program and just giving people emergency food resources is important, not just here in Texas,” said Butler. “We think this a very important program and this is going to hurt some people.”
Butler said he can’t speak to the number of people taking advantage of the program using state waivers, but he can speak to the amount of fraud the SNAP program faces.
“The fraud rate in SNAP is less than one percent, which is a good margin of error in any industry,” said Butler. “There might be some seasonal workers, tourism workers, waiters or waitresses that have spotty hours that might not meet the requirements that are still working. So, in that context, it’s kind of hard to swallow; people may be losing important benefits that are helping them and their family.”
“No one sees it as a safety net, they don’t want to rely on it, it’s supposed to be a promotion to a better life,” said Butler. “The thing is, it’s harder to get a job or keep 20 hours on a job than you or I might think. It shouldn’t be something you’re on for 10-15 years, but its going to help people rise out of poverty or get out of food insecurity.”
Butler said the impact of one SNAP application in Texas is equal to 981 meals.
"It’s a pretty great advantage for someone who’s struggling, said Butler.
The new rule for the SNAP program is set to take effect April 1, 2020.