SNAP under siege in 2019
A new change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will impact hundreds rural Coloradans including members of the Ute Mountain Tribe. The negative change tightens work requirements for able bodied adults without dependents between the ages of 18 and 49. The final rule, which was released last week, is expected to go into effect in April 2020. Several other changes to SNAP have been proposed but have yet to be finalized. Nationwide, the USDA estimates the new rule will cut off basic food assistance for nearly 700,000 of the nation’s poorest people.
The final rule includes a work requirement of 20 hours per week for able bodied adults without dependents in order to receive more than three months of SNAP in a 36-month period. Traditionally, states have been able to waive this work requirement during periods of economic downturn. In fact, during the most recent recession, all states except one waived either all or a portion of their regions due to high unemployment. In 2011, all but two Colorado counties waived the work requirement.
The new rule tightens the threshold for work requirement waivers. These areas must have an unemployment rate of at least 6 percent, as well as an unemployment rate at least 20 percent above the national average. In addition, states will no longer be able to combine certain geographies when seeking a waiver. Five Colorado counties (Conejos, Fremont, Hinsdale, Saguache and Huerfano) and the Ute Mountain Tribe currently have waivers exempting their ABAWDs from the time limit. These areas likely would not qualify under the new waiver criteria, and so the Colorado Department of Human Services estimates that about 800 ABAWDs in these areas would face a new time limit and could lose SNAP under the final rule.
The final rule also includes a harmful change that was not in the proposed rule that eliminates extended unemployment benefits (EUB). These benefits are triggered when unemployment rapidly rises, as a waiver criterion. This will limit states’ ability to quickly respond to sharp increases in unemployment based on recent unemployment data and means that hundreds more Coloradans could be impacted during an economic downturn, when SNAP is needed most.
These changes will harm Colorado kids. Children living in poverty often depend on pooled resources (including SNAP benefits) from extended family members. Additional restrictions on SNAP eligibility for adults means fewer resources to support the health and well-being of those children. These changes could also be particularly harmful to young people aging out of foster care – a population that already experiences multiple barriers to health and successfully transitioning to adulthood due numerous barriers and a lack of supports. We also know that it is critical to ensure that women are healthy and well-nourished before they become pregnant in order to improve the health of their children.
We are disappointed by the administration’s decision to move forward with this rule in spite of research that shows harsh work requirements do little to move long-term unemployed participants into the work force. Imposing stricter work requirements will jeopardize the health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of children nationwide and in Colorado.