The Trump administration is claiming it is closing a “loophole” in federal food benefits, cutting a tie between two federal assistance programs that could affect up to 3.1 million people, including thousands of Oregonians.
In 43 states including Oregon, registration with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program entails automatic registration with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue described this connection as a “loophole,” claiming the goal of the rule change was to ensure that “those who need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it.” Perdue’s department stands to cut billions from their budget with this change.
Local food banks are already gearing up in response to the news, stating they are used to sudden rule changes to benefits programs.
“We typically see when someone loses benefits and has no other way to make up for that income or benefit, they turn to food pantries.” said Dawn Marie Woodward with Food for Lane County. “And so, that’s where we come in.”
According to Oregon Department of Human Services data from 2017, about 100,000 Oregonians receive cash assistance through TANF and about 911,000 receive SNAP food benefits. TANF cash assistance can be used for clothing, shelter, food and utilities, with a family of three able to receive up to $506 per month. Through SNAP, a family of three can receive up to $505, all of which is intended for food.
“A lot of Oregonians are facing hunger and food insecurity because of the high costs of living here,” said Jeff Kleen, a public policy advocate at Oregon Food Bank. “Reducing categorical eligibility will have a disproportionate impact.”
By Ian MacRonald