Disabled veterans, senior citizens on fixed incomes, single parents who find the 10 hours they work every day never bring in enough revenue to support themselves and their kids.
Debbie Christian sees them at the Auburn Food Bank all of the time.
For them, SNAP is not some nefarious means to avoid labor or go full coach potato – it is essential to putting food on the table from the local grocery store, farmers market and farm stand. In Washington state alone, there are more than 1 million people just like that, and 90 percent of them have jobs.
And they are are the ones, Christian continued, who will be hit hardest by the massive cuts and changes to eligibility the Trump Administration announced last week to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated this change will remove 688,000 people from SNAP.
“If you have not worked in this world of helping those who need the food assistance, you don’t see what we see every day,” Christian said. “People, families are working. They work two and three jobs. They pinch pennies, coupons, and scramble to make ends meet every day. The paperwork needed to ‘prove’ they are worthy takes hours and time out of their work day to meet with the DSHS office in order to ‘prove’ they have a need, thus making them lose money on their already meager paycheck.
“While, on the one hand, we, the people of America, don’t want ‘takers’ that abuse ‘the system,’ ” Christian continued, “I don’t agree that cutting the funding to SNAP is the way to go about it. There just has to be another way to find the abusers. This cut is a broad sweep and will take food right out of the mouths of babes. Two-thirds of this number are babies, children in school and seniors who aren’t working,” Christian said.
States may get waivers from the federal work requirements to allow certain recipients to remain on the program longer when unemployment is higher, but the White House insists that counties must have have at least a 6 percent unemployment rate before states can waive the work requirements there.
“Unemployment is 3.6 percent, the lowest in 50 years,” said US Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “There are currently more job openings than people to fill them Now, in the midst of the strongest economy in a generation, we need everyone who can work, to work.”
Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus called the administration’s action “disappointing,” especially at a time. she said, when the need continues to grow.
“It almost seems counter intuitive at a time when the economy is good and unemployment is low that we would have a need for dismantling or reducing the dollar amount for aid., but that’s part of the problem,” Backus said.
For the many targeted by this rule, Christian said, barriers such as lower education, homelessness, and racial or age discrimination create challenges to finding a job.
“This rule,” Christian said, “undermines its own interests when underemployed, working individuals, through no fault of their own, cannot consistently report 20 hours of work each week, and as a result lose the SNAP benefits that help them afford the food they need to stay healthy. People need help to become self sufficient the right way by providing nutritious food to anyone in need. If they are not fed – they can’t work. If they are not healthy – they can’t work. If they are not fed – they can’t learn. If they are not fed – they die.
“Not on my watch,” Christian said.