A proposal by the Trump Administration to tighten eligibility for food stamps could impact more than 11,000 Connecticut residents, dealing a major blow to the elderly, children and working poor, according to anti-hunger advocates.
The proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP), would curtail what is commonly known as broad-based categorical eligibility. This has allowed states, including Connecticut, to expand the number of low-income residents who qualify for food stamps.
The policy is a “loophole” that needs to be closed because it has allowed states to bypass “important eligibility guidelines,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
Anti-hunger advocates, however, say its needed, especially in a state like Connecticut with its high-cost of living, and expressed alarm about the proposed changes.
“It’s horrible,” said Robin Lamott Sparks, executive directors of End Hunger Connecticut!. “There are a lot of families who are going to be hurt by this.”
According to data from statisticalatlas.com, in Connecticut, 33.2 percent of Latinos receive SNAP benefits.
The USDA’s new rule would stop the ability of states to distribute food stamps to people earning more than 130 percent of poverty guidelines, which is $33,475 for a family of four.
Currently, Connecticut allows those earning up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level to enroll in SNAP.
The proposed changes would also hurt children who receive free or reduced-price school meals.
“This proposal could cause thousands of people in Connecticut — children, older adults, people with disabilities and working families — to lose SNAP benefits, and could jeopardize access to school lunches for many low-income students,” said Deb Polun, executive director of the Connecticut Association for Community Action.
About 500,000 would lose access to school meals if the rule were implemented, said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District.
The proposed changes could have severe impacts on Latino students who receive free or reduced-price lunches.
During the 2017-2018 school year, Latinos made up 25 percent of students in Connecticut schools.
School districts with the highest percentage of Latino students are New Britain, 64 percent; Hartford, 53 percent; Waterbury, 53 percent; Bridgeport, 48 percent; New Haven, 45 percent; and Stamford, 44 percent.
In New Britain, a total of 7,856 students were eligible for free lunch during the 2017-2018 school year. In Hartford, 14,062 students were eligible for free lunches during the same period.
“President Trump and Secretary Perdue are waging a war against the most vulnerable people in our country,” DeLauro said.
The “heartless” rule was drafted “in a desperate attempt to implement these cruel provisions because Congress rejected them in last year’s Farm Bill,” she said.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is weighing a legal response.
“This is another cruel and pointless policy from President Trump,” he said. “The Trump administration has no problem wasting taxpayer dollars on tax breaks for the rich, gratuitous parades and golf outings, but decides to cut corners when it comes to food for families in need?”
“We will do everything we can to fight this rule on behalf of Connecticut’s most vulnerable families.”