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Study shows 11% of NC SNAP participants at risk of losing benefits

SALISBURY — The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed on July 23 closing a loophole that allows states to make families receiving minimal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits automatically eligible to participate in the department’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

According to research by Mathematica that was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the plan would mean that 11% of the 750,493 SNAP households  in North Carolina would lose their benefits. That amounts to 151,588 participants.

The data was pulled from fiscal year 2016, which was October 2015 to September 2016.

According to the research, 3% of people in poverty, 9% of those with children, 16% with elderly family members and 7% with a disabled family member would lose benefits. Another 13% of people with some form of income would lose SNAP benefits.

In the U.S., 9% of the 21.5 million SNAP households would lose benefits, according to the study.

The Agriculture Department had estimated that about 9% of SNAP households would not meet income and asset eligibility requirements under the proposed rule.

On average, 47 million individuals were eligible for benefits every month in 2016, and nearly 40 million received them, according to USDA.

“Under the proposed rule, millions of vulnerable families will have an even harder time making ends meet and putting food on the table,” said Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “This research shows that this pain will be felt in states across the nation. Any reforms to SNAP should reduce food insecurity, not exacerbate it. We urge USDA to withdraw this rule and reconsider its approach to SNAP.” 

According to the USDA, the loophole gives states the ability to provide these benefits without checking income and assets to ensure households are eligible.

“For too long, this loophole has been used to effectively bypass important eligibility guidelines. Too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint,” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said after the proposal was announced. “The American people expect their government to be fair, efficient and to have integrity — just as they do in their own homes, businesses and communities. That is why we are changing the rules, preventing abuse of a critical safety-net system, so those who need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it.”

Sarah Lauffer, senior research programmer at Mathematica, said the study contradicts the idea that the proposal would only affect those without income. Nationally, 4% of SNAP participants or 789,469 would lose benefits, she said.

She also said the study shows the varied impact. Across the U.S., 20 states have more than 10% of SNAP households that may lose SNAP eligibility if the proposed rule goes into effect. Those states include Texas, Oregon, North Dakota and Delaware.

The USDA is accepting public comment on the proposed rule change through Sept. 23.

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