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Pennsylvania officials say federal food stamp change would punish working families

Pennsylvania officials on Monday criticized a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposal to tighten eligibility rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called “SNAP.”

The proposal would end “Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility,” a policy implemented by Pennsylvania and 42 other states that makes low-income families categorically eligible for food assistance through SNAP because they qualify for a non-cash benefit funded by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

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

“This proposed change to SNAP benefits is punishment for working families across America,” Gov. Wolf said Monday. “I oppose this ludicrous change that will hurt tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians, creating an undue burden and more food insecurity for families, older Pennsylvanians and people with disabilities who already struggle to put food on the table.”

In Pennsylvania, more than 1.7 million people rely on SNAP to afford food. The elimination of Broad-Based Categorial Eligibility jeopardizes SNAP benefits for about 200,000 people in more than 120,000 Pennsylvania households, Pennsylvania officials estimated.

“This proposed rule will have a negative effect on food security, including jeopardizing the school lunch program because SNAP families receive free school lunches,” Gov. Wolf said. “The federal government must do better to support working families.”

“The Trump Administration’s proposed rule targets needy families by restricting their ability to get SNAP benefits and will, quite simply, create more hungry families,” Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said. “Eliminating Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility will force families to choose between putting food on their table or covering childcare, rent, or other basic needs. This is unconscionable.”

“The rule has ramifications beyond food security,” Gov. Wolf said. “Pennsylvania retailers rely on the money SNAP recipients spend and reducing the number of people able to use these benefits in Pennsylvania will have a significant economic impact. In addition, when people receive proper nutrition, they remain healthier and spend less on health care. Depriving people of the means for adequate sustenance and a healthier life is cruel and inhumane.”

The departments of Human Services and Education are working to gather and submit public comment opposing this rule change within 60 days.

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