How the Trump Administration’s Latest Attacks on Food Stamps Hurt Women

Hunger is not and has never been a meaningful incentive to find employment when employment is not there to be had. Yet the Trump Administration announced yesterday that it will deny Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, for nearly 700,000 so-called “able-bodied adults without dependents” (ABAWDS) after three months if they can’t find work.

(Joshua Rawson-Harris)

Currently, ABAWDs must meet specific work requirements in order to access three months of SNAP benefits in a 36-month period. For the past 20 years, states have been given flexibility to waive this three-month time limit in areas with high unemployment or insufficient jobs. USDA’s Final Rule removes these important protections and would result in unprecedented cuts to the country’s most successful and important anti-hunger program. The rule defines those without dependents as any parent with children over the age of six. Furthermore, it fails to take into consideration those whose disabilities may be hidden or undiagnosed.

USDA’s rule change does nothing to encourage “self-sufficiency.” Instead, it provides a blistering reminder of what can only be described as a deliberately pernicious strategy to undercut already marginalized populations that deserve our support instead of mandated restrictions to critically needed food.

For example, the final rule includes stipulations that create an additional barrier for single mothers already struggling with food insecurity. It ignores the realities facing single mothers in the United States—and instead of supporting them, places them in the untenable position of choosing to leave their children home alone while they work or lose the ability to feed them. In addition to the difficulty women continue to face in finding well-paying jobs, this country hasn’t had adequate and affordable childcare since the 1940s. It is simply unrealistic to suggest that such childcare will magically become available.  This jumping-through-hoops is a shameful display of political manipulation that does nothing to help build a foundation of success and fulfillment.

This rule change would also exacerbate hunger among Native Americans, an already vulnerable and frequently overlooked population. One in four Native Americans is food insecure—double the national average of one in eight people. Despite reports of high employment nationally, unemployment remains a huge issue in Indian Country, in some cases as high as 21 percent. SNAP waivers for these communities literally save lives.

Furthermore, many recently-transitioning veterans take temporary jobs but struggle to find full-time sustained work—and these individuals might not be able to report 20 hours of work per week in order to receive SNAP benefits. An estimated 1.4 million veterans live in households that participate in SNAP; however, veterans often struggle to find jobs that match their skills, especially if they have little work experience beyond military service. Veterans also often face discrimination, particularly if they have a mental or physical disability.

Ensuring that all veterans, especially those with undiagnosed or hidden disabilities, have access to adequate and nutritious food is critical and is the least this nation owes to its returning and injured soldiers. Too often, these brave men and women face unique challenges in securing full-time work when their military service ends. Not having the support to put food on the table during these times is unconscionable.

Earlier this year, MAZON submitted formal comments to USDA about this proposal and coordinated a letter signed by 60 Members of Congress, citing the negative impact this regulatory change would have on vulnerable Americans. Those comments highlighted the difficulty in finding employment for so many Americans despite a desire to do so. 

We are appalled at the persistent attacks by this Administration to purposefully make life more difficult for those struggling with hunger, especially those populations that are often overlooked and who have unique barriers to employment—including veterans, single mothers with school age children, those living in rural America or on Tribal Lands and college students. 

MAZON will do everything we can to continue to fight against this regulatory attack—because no matter a person’s circumstance, no one deserves to be hungry.

About

Abby J. Leibman is the President & CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and was a co-founder of the California Women’s Law Center. Inspired by Jewish values and ideals, MAZON is a national advocacy organization working to end hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds in the United States and Israel. Abby has received, among other honors, the California Women Lawyer's Faye Stender Award, Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles' Ernestine Stalhut Award, UCSD's Top 100 Influential Alumni Award, USC Law Center's Public Interest Advocate Award and the So. California Employer Round Table's Carol F. Schiller Award. She has a J.D. from Hastings College of Law and graduated magna cum laude from UC San Diego with a B.A. in Political Science.