The Trump administration has unveiled changes to the USDA’s SNAP program (formerly called food stamps), which may make roughly 70,000 low-income New York City residents ineligible for the program.
The cutbacks could hit Brooklyn hard, since Brooklyn has more SNAP recipients than any other borough in the city: roughly 580,000 in 2017, according to city data.
The new requirements will prevent many adults between the ages of 18 and 49 who are able-bodied and have no dependents from qualifying for the program.
Currently, ABAWDs (Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents) must work 20 or more hours every week in order to be eligible to receive SNAP benefits. If not, SNAP benefits are limited to three months in a three-year period. However, states have been allowed to create waivers for areas that face high unemployment, such as a town where a factory has closed down or in a neighborhood with few employment opportunities.
The new rule would restrict the use of waivers to those areas that have a 6 percent unemployment rate or higher. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate in October was 3.6 percent.
“Every time we think we’ve hit rock bottom, the president sets the bar for his cruelty even lower: proposing to take food away from millions of Americans, just in time for the holidays,” said Steven Banks, commissioner of the city’s Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services, in a statement on Thursday.
He called the rule change a “relentless assault on our nation’s most vulnerable residents,” and vowed the city would fight back.
“This rule change is cold, heartless and despicable,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
According to NYC Open Data, there were 1,550,397 people receiving SNAP benefits in the city as of April 2019. About 70,000 of these food stamp recipients fall into the ABAWD category, according to HRA.
About three-quarters of them could lose their benefits.
East New York, or Community District 5, is the district with the highest number of SNAP recipients — 59,488 individuals.
Community District 12, which covers Borough Park and parts of Kensington and Ocean Parkway, is home to 58,390 individuals receiving SNAP benefits. Many of the recipients in these neighborhoods are children.
Community District 2 is one of the districts with the lowest number of SNAP recipients.
A grocery store manager in Community District 2, which covers a swath of northernwestern Brooklyn including Brooklyn Heights and Boerum Hill, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Thursday that most of the shoppers using SNAP benefits in the store were elderly. She added that she herself received SNAP benefits because her chronically ill child required a special, expensive diet.
Linda Bopp, executive director of the anti-hunger organization Hunger Solutions New York, said in a statement that the new rule “will ultimately take food assistance away from those who are struggling to find work, while providing no support or enhancement for employment training or placement.”
The rule is scheduled to go into effect in April 2020.
President Donald Trump issued an order cutting back eligibility despite bipartisan support in Congress for leaving the program as it is. Across the country, this policy change will affect nearly 700,000 people.