On Monday, January 13, Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller joined Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary for Market Development Cheryl Cook and representatives from several charitable food organizations, food retailers, as well as a food assistance recipient at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to discuss the effects from the Trump Administration's numerous attacks on the Supplemental Nutrition Access Program (SNAP).
SNAP is the nation's most important anti-hunger program. It is a resource for 1.7 million Pennsylvanians to help put food on the tables including 700,000 children, 690,000 individuals with disabilities, and 300,000 older adults across the state.
The Trump Administration has proposed two rules and finalized one rule in 2019 that make it harder for food banks helping vulnerable Pennsylvanians, food retailers who serve people using SNAP, and people trying to keep food on the table.
- Charitable Food Networks: These harmful proposals may create prolonged increased demand on charitable food networks that stretch resources that may be nearly impossible to withstand.
- Economy: In addition to SNAP helping 1.7 million Pennsylvanians keep food on the table and avoid chronic hunger, SNAP helps local economies. More than 10,000 authorized retailers participate in SNAP across Pennsylvania, and these retailers redeemed about $2.6 billion in SNAP benefits in 2018 according to the USDA. Food retailers in the room shared that in areas where SNAP redemptions make up a significant portion of their revenue, the loss could cause businesses to go under.
- Pennsylvanians: Throughout these proposals, thousands of Pennsylvania could be negatively impacted by cutting their eligibility or losing SNAP benefits. People are strapped to support their families while experiencing perpetuated stigma around receiving assistance. Recipients are ridiculed when seen using their EBT card, accused of fraud and laziness, and are constantly the target of legislative and policy changes designed to enact more stringent requirements and additional burdens to accessing benefits — just like the Trump Administration's proposals are doing.
"I am asked all the time, 'What happens if these rules go forward? What is the backup plan?'" said Secretary Miller. "There is not a backup plan for SNAP. If we don't continue fighting the federal proposals to cut SNAP, the hunger gaps that the local food organizations work so tirelessly to fill will grow — affecting our children, elderly and working families."
Around the table, people are showing their resilience in the fight to preserve and protect assistance for many of our 1.7 million fellow Pennsylvanians that utilize SNAP.
There should be no shame in utilizing a service or receiving a benefit to meet basic needs, work to get ahead and achieve a better life. As we heard at the table today, most of the individuals and families going to the food pantries who are working, but still need SNAP and food services in order to make it through the month.
Like reported on WITF, a SNAP recipient shared that he supports his family of six while working part-time after a workplace injury, with a $40 a month from the SNAP program. Additionally, he utilizes resources from a local food pantry and relies on breakfast and lunch meals through the school.
Without these resources, he doesn't know how he can support his family. He is concerned. He is fearful.
He is not alone. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country are fearful of these changes.
This fear even makes people hesitate before signing up for SNAP. Before they go through the process of filling out their SNAP application and the requirements, some question whether they will be cut off through on-going proposals to cut benefits.
Others may be confused about how to navigate the process.
Others are incredibly self-less. Around the table, a SNAP outreach coordinator at a health center shared that many who may qualify and need the supports choose not to apply in order to "not take assistance away from someone else who maybe needs more services."
Most Pennsylvanians interact with DHS' services at some point during their life. All it may take is one job loss or injury to bring you to need assistance. DHS serves as a resource and lifeline for all Pennsylvanians. Food assistance is no exception.
The Wolf Administration and its partners will continue to do all we can to lift the voices, stories, and experiences of people who will be affected by these proposed rules to cut SNAP assistance. DHS encourages people who may be affected to take their concerns to their representation in Congress and to the United States Department of Agriculture.
WITF: Wolf Administration warns against proposed SNAP cuts
CBS 21: Proposed changes to SNAP benefits could impact nearly one million Pennsylvanians