PA Human Services: Trump Administration SNAP Changes Jeopardize Food Access for Vulnerable Pennsylvanians

HARRISBURG – Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller on Monday submitted public comment to the Trump Administration opposing its proposal to drastically reduce Broad Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The changes would jeopardize food access for more than 200,000 people and would adversely affect children, seniors and people with disabilities.

“The Wolf Administration vehemently opposes any changes that would risk more Pennsylvanians going hungry. Forcing already-struggling families to choose between putting food on their table or covering child care, rent or other basic needs is unconscionable and traps people in a cycle of poverty,” said Miller.

“We strongly oppose any and all attacks on SNAP and will continue to fight against any attempt to take the program away from Pennsylvanians who need it.”

SNAP, previously known as food stamps, helps more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians access nutritional meals and puts food on their tables.

BBCE is a policy that gives states, including Pennsylvania, the flexibility to determine appropriate income thresholds and extend SNAP benefits to low-income families and individuals who would otherwise struggle to afford food.

With BBCE, a Pennsylvania family of four is eligible for SNAP if they earn no more than about $40,000 a year. If BBCE is reduced, that family of four’s SNAP income limit will drop from about $40,000 a year to no more than $32,000 a year.

For elderly single-person households, the income limit would change from approximately $24,000 a year to about $15,000.

Reducing BBCE will have the direct opposite effect of promoting economic mobility and employment and will destabilize families, making it harder for them to move out of poverty.

Reducing BBCE would also jeopardize free lunches for nearly 22,600 households whose children who currently qualify. This would not only cause more students to go hungry at schools – it also risks access to programs that provide nutritious meals for children after school and during summer months.

Reduced BBCE would increase Medicaid spending and reduce long-term health outcomes due to the direct connection between food security, proper nutrition and good health.

Additionally, reduced BBCE could yield a loss of over $200- $250 million per year to Pennsylvania retailers, as purchases made through SNAP go directly back into the local economy and food providers.

Over 10,000 authorized retailers participate in SNAP across Pennsylvania. These retailers redeemed about $2.6 billion in SNAP benefits in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Our mission at DHS is to help people achieve a better life without public assistance. Attacks on SNAP make it harder for us to make people’s lives better,” said Miller.

“These mean-spirited changes to SNAP do nothing to help people get off public assistance. They will only increase hunger across Pennsylvania and will disproportionately impact working families, individuals with disabilities, and seniors. It is cruel and unacceptable.”

Read DHS’ comments to the Trump Administration here. For more information on SNAP and DHS services, visit http://www.dhs.pa.gov/citizens/supplementalnutritionassistanceprogram.

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