USDA seeks to plug loopholes in welfare programs
Washington-- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing to close a loophole that allows states to make participants receiving minimal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits automatically eligible to participate in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The proposed rule published on July 23 in the Federal Register would limit SNAP/TANF automatic eligibility to households that receive substantial, ongoing TANF-funded benefits aimed at helping families move toward self-sufficiency.
The proposed rule would fix a loophole that has expanded SNAP recipients in some states to include people who receive assistance when they clearly don’t need it.
In fact, the depth of this specific flexibility has become so egregious that a millionaire living in Minnesota successfully enrolled in the program simply to highlight the waste of taxpayer money. This proposal gives USDA the ability to save billions of dollars, ensuring nutrition assistance programs are delivered with consistency and integrity to those most in need.
“For too long, this loophole has been used to effectively bypass important eligibility guidelines. Too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
“The American people expect their government to be fair, efficient, and to have integrity – just as they do in their own homes, businesses, and communities. That is why we are changing the rules, preventing abuse of a critical safety net system, so those who need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it.”
Currently, benefits may be as minimal as simply providing a household with an informational brochure describing social services or access to hotline numbers. These nominal benefits are often given without conducting a robust eligibility determination. Congress has established clear eligibility standards. It is USDA’s responsibility to make sure those who receive benefits are eligible.
To confer automatic eligibility for SNAP under the proposal, a household must receive TANF-funded cash or non-cash benefits valued at a minimum of $50 per month for at least 6 months. In addition, non-cash benefits that could convey automatic eligibility would be restricted to subsidized employment, work supports, or childcare. By establishing clear standards and requiring that benefits be ongoing and substantial, the proposal will ensure SNAP benefits go toward Americans most in need.