State welfare officials say they do not know the number of food stamp recipients in Alabama who would be affected by President Donald Trump’s proposed federal rule change that nationally would cut some 3 million recipients from the program.
There are 716,989 food stamp recipients in the state, including 67,318 people age 60 and above with no earned income.
Trump wants the rule change in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, called SNAP but often known by its old name, food stamps. He says a loophole lets states give benefits to those who would otherwise be ineligible.
Forty states, including Alabama, and the District of Columbia use the option.
Alabama Department of Human Resources spokesman Barry Spear said the state does have such recipients.
This is how it works: the federal government sets a gross income cap of 130% of the poverty line for SNAP recipients – about $33,000 for a family of four.
Now states can exceed the cap to allow families on assistance to get SNAP benefits if their income is as high as 200% of the poverty level, as long as they have other expenses such as child care and medical bills that cut into their net income.
Spear said Alabama cannot now determine the number of recipients affected. “We don’t have a number for this yet and probably won’t because we don’t know what assets clients have until we ask them,” he said.
He said that, in Alabama people are automatically considered eligible for SNAP if they are in the temporary assistance to needy families program, often called welfare.
Nationwide, about 36 million people receive the SNAP benefits, a number that has steadily declined since 2013, when it exceeded 47 million.
Total benefits issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Alabamians through the SNAP program, through May this fiscal year, was $84.8 million.
There were 79,808 SNAP recipients In Jefferson County as of May getting about $11.5 million.
Proponents say the rule change would save the federal government $2.5 billion a year. Federal officials now have the option of not cutting completely but phasing out SNAP recipients when a family’s gross income exceeds a certain level.
Also under the rule change, about 265,000 school children who get free lunches would have to apply separately to keep getting the meals.
“This rule would take food away from families, prevent children from getting school meals, and make it harder for states to administer food assistance,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Congress refused to include the rule change in last year’s proposed farm bill, she said.
“This proposal is yet another attempt by this administration to circumvent Congress and make harmful changes to nutrition assistance that have been repeatedly rejected on a bipartisan basis,” Stabenow said.