Photo by Jessica Spengler/Flickr

Photo by Jessica Spengler/Flickr

Budget Proposal Would Jeopardize Washington’s Food Assistance Program

Policy analysts say Trump’s plan to slash SNAP’s funding would push people further into poverty.

Government assistance can be the lifeline that helps people experiencing financial hardship get back on their feet. But high barriers to accessing those benefits and decreased national spending on core programs that alleviate poverty could make it more difficult for low-income individuals to make ends meet, public policy analysts say.

The Trump administration’s 2019 budget proposal, released on Monday, would cut funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by nearly 30 percent—more than $213 billion—over the next 10 years. In Washington, that would impact 900,000 people who receive food benefits, about a third of whom are children, according to the state’s Department of Health and Department Social and Health Services.

Under the proposal, beneficiaries who receive at least $90 a month would get part of their assistance in the form of a food box that would contain “items such as shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit, vegetables, and meat, poultry or fish.” The remainder of their benefits would be distributed to their EBT card. Yet Christina Wong, Public Policy Manager at the statewide food bank Northwest Harvest, says that the package is an “ill-conceived idea” that would be a blow to the economy. “To replace half of a monthly household benefit takes away that purchasing ability,” Wong said. “A box of food isn’t generating income in local communities.”

Local foodsheds create jobs in grocery stores, warehouses, the agricultural industry, and the transportation system. These positions could be jeopardized by cuts to SNAP. According to a Washington Department of Social and Health Services statement, every dollar that families receive in food benefits currently generates $1.74 for the economy.

Trump’s plan would also expand work requirements for older beneficiaries by increasing the age range for able-bodied adults without dependents from 49 to 62 years old.

The proposal would also push some people out of the program who are unable to find a job. The USDA currently waives time limits for people who are looking for work in areas with high unemployment. King County is currently the only part of the state without this waiver, but the proposal would impose time limits statewide. “It’s taking food away from people who are struggling,” Wong said.

“This proposal takes the wrong approach to providing healthy, nutritious food to our neighbors with limited resources,” Washington state Secretary of Health John Wiesman said in a press release. “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program works because it gives people the freedom to choose what they want to eat.”

The impact of limitations to SNAP can already be seen in the cuts that were made to Washington’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The people who were pushed out of the program as a result serves as more than a cautionary tale, but as “rock solid evidence that many of the things that the Trump administration is doing in this budget don’t work,” according to Washington State Budget and Policy Center Deputy Director Julie Watts. “TANF is evidence that time limits … [and] work requirements don’t move people out of poverty,” Watts said. “What they do is lead to more economic hardships for people.”

Funding for WorkFirst, Washington’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, has decreased by nearly fifty percent in the past decade, said Watts. As a result, the case load has dropped from over 50,000 families to around 30,000, despite a rise in poverty, according to the center’s WorkFirst policy brief released last month. Moreover, about 60 percent of the individuals who were pushed off of TANF between 2009-2015 have mental health needs and more than 1/3 have a chronic illness, Watts said. “We know that these families aren’t doing well and this has intergenerational impact on poverty.”

mhellmann@seattleweekly.com


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

Gov. Jay Inslee issued new guidance allowing the resumption of self-service buffets, salad bars, salsa bars, drink stations and other types of communal food sources in Phase 2. File photo
Buffets and salad bars back on the menu in King County

Gov. Jay Inslee has revised rules to allow self-serve food areas in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening.

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

Brian Tilley (left) and Katie Dearman work the wash station Friday at Kate’s Greek American Deli in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Governor’s no-mask, no-service order begins across Washington

“Just do not ring up the sale,” Gov. Jay Inslee said about customers who do not don the proper masks.

King County homeless count: 11,751 people, up 5 percent from 2019

One night a year, volunteers spread out across Seattle and King County… Continue reading

Nurse Sylvia Keller, pictured with Gov. Jay Inslee, is on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle in Yakima County. Courtesy photo
Governor doubles down on mask rules

Inslee: Starting July 7, businesses do not serve those who do not wear a mask

State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Politicians get pay raises, state workers get furloughs

A citizens panel approved the hikes in 2019. Unable to rescind them, lawmakers look to donate their extra earnings.

Human remains in West Seattle identified

Bags of body parts were found in a suitcase along a West Seattle beach on June 19.

Summer vehicle travel projected to decrease this year

Traffic this summer will likely be lighter across Washington state than previous… Continue reading

Governor Jay Inslee smiles and laughs Sept. 3, 2019, during a speech at the Lynnwood Link Extension groundbreaking in Lynnwood. A Thurston County judge ruled he exceeded his authority when he vetoed single sentences in the state transportation budget in 2019. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)
Judge invalidates Gov. Inslee’s veto in roads budget

Lawmakers said the governor crossed a constitutional line.

Most Read