“In response to the Trump Administration’s announcement today to restrict nutrition benefits for nearly 700,000 Americans, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger expressed its anger that the Administration has cruelly and needlessly restricted access to the most basic of human needs for those who are among our nation’s most vulnerable. So-called “able-bodied adults without dependents” or “ABAWDS” will now be denied Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) after three months, unless they can find work. Hunger is not and has never been a meaningful incentive to find employment when employment is not there to be had.
Currently, “ABAWDs” must meet specific work requirements in order to access three months of SNAP benefits in a thirty-six-month period. For the past twenty years, states have been given flexibility to waive this three-month time limit in areas with high unemployment or insufficient jobs. USDA’s Final Rule removes these important protections and would result in unprecedented cuts to the country’s most successful and important anti-hunger program.
“We are appalled at the persistent attacks by this Administration to purposefully make life more difficult for those struggling with hunger, especially those populations that are often overlooked and who have unique barriers to employment, including veterans, those living in rural America or on Tribal Lands and college students. USDA’s rule change does nothing to encourage ‘self-sufficiency’ and instead provides a blistering reminder of what can only be described as a deliberately pernicious strategy to undercut already marginalized populations that deserve our support instead of mandated restrictions to critically needed food,” said Abby J. Leibman, President & CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.
Earlier this year, MAZON submitted formal comments to USDA about this proposal and coordinated a letter signed by 60 Members of Congress, citing the negative impact this regulatory change would have on vulnerable Americans.
Those comments highlighted the difficulty in finding employment for so many Americans despite a desire to do so. Among those “ABAWDS” who personify this struggle, America’s veterans often struggle in silence. An estimated 1.4 million veterans live in households that participate in SNAP; however, veterans often struggle to find jobs that match their skills, especially if they have little work experience beyond military service. Furthermore, many recently-transitioning veterans take temporary jobs but struggle to find full-time sustained work—these individuals might not be able to report 20 hours of work per week in order to receive SNAP benefits.
Leibman said, “Ensuring that all veterans, especially those with undiagnosed or hidden disabilities, have access to adequate and nutritious food is critical and is the least this nation owes to its returning and injured soldiers. Too often, these brave men and women face unique challenges in securing full-time work when their military service ends. Not having the support to put food on the table during these times is unconscionable. What a terrible way to treat those who have defended our liberties.”
This rule change would also exacerbate hunger among Native Americans, an already vulnerable and frequently overlooked population. One in four Native Americans is food insecure (double the national average of one in eight people). Despite reports of high employment nationally, unemployment remains a huge issue in Indian Country, in some cases as high as 21%. SNAP waivers for these communities literally save lives.
“MAZON will do everything we can to continue to fight against this regulatory attack, because no matter a person’s circumstance, no one deserves to be hungry,” Leibman said.”