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Trump’s New Food Stamp Requirements Could Adversely Affect Millions!

White House is devising new plans that could increase flexibility of federal programs for the poor around the country and one of the proposals that the current administration is considering is to allow mandatory drug testing for body-abled food stamp recipients and tightening work requirements for them to ensure that the Government is able to help only those who are deserving of it and people don’t try to cheat the system by living off food stamps their entire lives.

Stricter Criteria for Food Stamp Programs

Trump administration wants stricter eligibility conditions for SNAP participants in order to put more pressure on them to find real jobs

Under the current federal law, states can’t create their own food stamp eligibility conditions, but the National Conference of State Legislatures says that more than 20 states have created legislations which allow them to screen the participants of safety net programs to some degree. Now, congress wants stricter eligibility conditions for those who benefit from government-based welfare reforms.

The proposition for drug testing is mostly for those who are able-bodied, don’t have family members who depend on them, and possess skills that could be used for specialized jobs. According to a statement made by an administration official, the new plan could affect 5 per cent of the recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

SNAP’s administrator, Jessica Shahin, says that she is awaiting an announcement from the White House to implement the new changes to program eligibility requirements which could come any day now. Many policymakers have fought to implement drug testing in food assistance programs to weed out those participants who were taking unjust advantage of government’s support and not making enough effort to look for a real job. However, the conservatives’ efforts were blocked in 2015, after which the Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, sued USDA for not allowing mandatory drug testing for food stamp recipients in his state.

Many politicians believe that the new SNAP policies could work against the vulnerable population and could prove to be borderline-illegal.

Federal Judges Block Request for Drug Testing

The suit was dismissed by a federal judge a year later, but Walker continued his pursuit for drug testing rules after Donald Trump was named the new President. The permission request was turned down once again by Kevin Concannon who served as the Undersecretary of USDA Food and Nutrition Service under Obama administration and was only replaced last January after the arrival of the new administration. Concannon said that he couldn’t afford to allow the states to use drug testing as a criterion for food stamps since the process was costly and difficult to manage.

Walker has continued to look for workarounds after federal judges in most states have blocked his efforts to introduce drug testing into SNAP programs, upholding the ruling that the new request is unconstitutional and costly. The Governor of Wisconsin has somehow found a way to implement drug testing in Employment and Training Programs whose participants are also eligible for receiving food stamps.

New Rules Could Affect Millions

Although USDA under the new administration has not taken a clear stance on drug testing, State Secretary, Sonny Perdue, says that he plans to introduce stricter requirements for SNAP participants and give states more control over the program. Perdue says that states should be given enough flexibility to meet their goals and the people’s needs.

At the end of the day, the government would only do what it believes is best for the country, he added. While, he is all in favor of providing nutrition to those who can’t afford healthy meals, Perdue also believes that drug testing and other new laws are necessary to help people get back on their feet and find proper jobs instead of relying on government programs their entire lives.

Democrats are considering the potential changes for SNAP as ‘extreme, partisan policies’ which would only have negative consequences for the vulnerable participants of the program. Policy analyst Ed Bolen who is part of Center for Budget and Policy Priorities says that there is very little legal ground for introducing drug policy for SNAP beneficiaries who could lose food assistance based on the new criterion, and what happens if they choose not to take the drug test?

The new laws could potentially limit income of millions of families and weaken the health and poverty programs introduced by the previous administration meant to promote equality and prosperity in the country.

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