Thousands In Allegheny County Could Lose SNAP Benefits Under Proposed Change

Sep 20, 2019

More than 16,000 people in Allegheny County could be impacted by a proposed change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The federal Department of Agriculture proposal would tighten restrictions for states that maintain a flexible income eligibility level for SNAP recipients.

“Broad-based categorical eligibility” allows states to use less restrictive income tests to expand the program for people who might make more than SNAP’s financial eligibility level, but want to save money. For example, in Pennsylvania, a household of four might make slightly more than the maximum monthly income level for SNAP, but is still able to access some benefits. That way, the family can potentially start a savings account and become more financially stable.

Ann Sanders, Public Policy Advocate with the food access nonprofit Just Harvest, said the change would hurt families who are struggle to afford food.

“[The Trump administration] says they are trying to tighten flexibility, but really what they are doing is they’re just making the program less efficient and less responsive to need,” Sanders said.

The federal agency proposed the change in July, and the public comment period ends Monday, Sept. 23. It says more restrictive measures will ensure the funds are only going to the “appropriate households” and that the current law “does not meaningfully move families toward self-sufficiency.” Sanders said this logic is flawed.

“They have said that they want to make sure SNAP is being only used by people who are truly need, which I think is kind of a slap in the face to all these people, even though they might be only receiving $15 or $30 in benefits,” Sanders said.

The public can comment online until Sept. 23.