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30,000+ Coloradans could lose food stamp benefits under proposed USDA rule

Posted at 10:05 PM, Jul 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-26 10:58:03-04

DENVER – More than 30,000 Coloradans could lose their food stamp benefits under the Trump administration’s proposal to tighten automatic eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The Department of Agriculture said Tuesday the proposed rule would close a “loophole” that allows people receiving minimal benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, to be automatically eligible to participate in the SNAP program without undergoing a more robust check on their income or assets.

“For too long, this loophole has been used to effectively bypass important eligibility guidelines. Too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a statement.

Under the proposal, a household must receive at least $50 a month in benefits from TANF for at least six months to qualify for automatic eligibility under the SNAP program.

Perdue said the new rules would prevent abuse of a “critical safety net system, so those need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it.”

The USDA estimates that about 3.1 million people “will not otherwise meet SNAP’s income and asset eligibility prerequisites under the proposed rule,” acknowledging the proposed rule “may also negatively impact food security and reduce the savings rates among those individuals who do not meet the income and resource eligibility requirements for SNAP or the substantial and ongoing requirements for expanded categorical eligibility.”

In total, the department estimates they would be securing approximately $9.4 billion in net savings over the next five years if the proposed rule goes into effect.

“Enacting the proposed rule changes would alter Colorado eligibility guidelines and decrease the number of families served through this program each month,” Colorado Department of Human Services spokesman John Rosa told Denver7 Thursday.

In our state, that amounts to 33,514 people who would be affected under the proposed rule.

“While the elderly population would not be subject to a gross income test, a net income test and asset limit would now be applied,” according to Rosa. The proposed rule would impact a total of 7,371 elderly throughout the state each month.

Those between 18 and 59 years of age without children in the household who earn between 130% and 200% of the federal poverty line would be eliminated from the program, Rosa said, impacting 6,442 Coloradans monthly.

Families with children in the household earning between 130% to 200% of the federal poverty line would also be eliminated from the program if Colorado was unable to secure additional TANF funds to provide for those families on a monthly basis.

“It is unclear at this time that Colorado has the ability to address this funding and, therefore, these families with children could be eliminated,” Rosa said, adding the proposed rule could impact a total of 19,701 individuals, “11,000 of which are children.”

The Associated Press reports that under current law, states may automatically make people eligible for food stamps, if they meet income and other requirements for TANF. The USDA says 43 states, including Colorado, have expanded that to include households that it says “barely participate” in TANF. The provision is called “expanded categorical eligibility.”

The policy has resulted in people receiving food stamps who don’t need it and wouldn’t qualify under regular program rules, Perdue said.

The proposed rule is open for public comment for 60 days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.