Study: USDA SNAP rule would affect very poor who live alone
March 14, 2019
The vast majority of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants who could be affected by the Agriculture Department's proposed rule to tighten SNAP work waivers are in deep poverty and live alone, according to a new analysis conducted by Mathematica Policy Research.
The analysis, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, examines a proposed rule from USDA, issued last month, which would make it harder for states to receive federal time-limit waivers for SNAP participants living in certain areas.
Among the 1.2 million participants living in waiver areas who do not have a disability, do not live with children, and are not working the required average of 20 hours per week, the analysis reveals that:
▪ A greater share of these SNAP participants lived in poverty (97 percent) compared to other SNAP participants (80 percent); 88 percent also had household incomes at or below 50 percent of the poverty level.
▪ About 81 percent lived alone.
▪ About one-third lived in SNAP households that reported income. Among those with reported income, the average monthly household income was $557, or 43 percent of the poverty level ($20,160 for a family of three in fiscal year 2017).
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▪ About 11 percent were working (but less than the required average of 20 hours per week), and another 5 percent lived with someone else who was working.
"No one in America should go hungry or live in poverty. The findings of this analysis show that USDA's proposed rule would disproportionately affect some of the most vulnerable SNAP participants," said Giridhar Mallya, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
"USDA should carefully consider whether this change promotes the ultimate goal of the SNAP program to reduce food insecurity."
The analysis also finds that some states are more likely than others to be affected by the proposed changes — in particular, states where a substantial share of nondisabled childless SNAP participants age 18 to 49 do not work the required average of 20 hours per week, and would be subject to time limits if they did not live in waiver areas
In the District of Columbia and 11 states — Alaska, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington — between 53 percent and 77 percent of nondisabled childless SNAP participants age 18 to 49 fall into that category.
"Our analysis shows that the impacts of these rule changes are not uniform," said Karen Cunnyngham, a senior researcher at Mathematica. "A lot depends on a state's choices around waiver policies and the health of the state's economy."