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

Freshwater variety of kokanee salmon from Lake Sammamish. File photo
Encouraging numbers for kokanee salmon spawn count

Lake Sammamish kokanee aren’t out of the woods by any stretch, but… Continue reading

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance
Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

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

In this file photo, Tayshon Cottrell dons his graduation cap and gown, along with a face mask reading: “Wear it! Save America” at Todd Beamer High School’s virtual graduation walk recording on May 20, 2020, in Federal Way. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Law gives Washington high school seniors leeway to graduate

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that can waive some requirements for students who were on track before the pandemic.

File photo
Study shows Washingtonians exceeded ‘heavy drinking’ threshold in 2020

The survey suggests Washingtonians drank more than 17 alcoholic beverages a week on average.

Mercer Island School District first-graders returned to in-person classes on Jan. 19, 2021. Here, Northwood Elementary School students head into the building. Photo courtesy of the Mercer Island School District
Governor: Educators are now eligible for coronavirus vaccine

“This should give educators more confidence,” Jay Inslee said. Other frontline workers could soon be next.

Malden, after a wildfire burned down 80% of the town’s buildings in Eastern Washington. Courtesy photo
DNR commissioner seeks $125 million to fight wildfires

In Washington state last September, some 600,000 acres burned within 72 hours.

Washington State Supreme Court Justices (back row, L-R) Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Mary I. Yu, G. Helen Whitener, (front row, L-R) Susan Owens, Charles W. Johnson, Steven C. Gonzalez, Barbara A. Madsen and Debra L. Stephens.
Justices strike down Washington state drug possession law

Police must stop arresting people for simple possession.

In Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan, which was announced Jan. 28, restaurants can reopen at a maximum 25% capacity and a limit of six people per table. Inslee recently announced all counties will be staying in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan for the next several weeks. Pictured: People enjoy outdoor dining last summer in downtown Kent. Courtesy photo
Inslee: All of Washington to stay in Phase 2 for a few weeks

The governor issued a weekslong pause on regions moving backward, but has yet to outline a Phase 3.

Entrance to the Tukwila Library branch of the King County Library System. File photo
King County libraries will reopen in some cities for in-person services

Fall City, Kent libraries among six selected for partial reopening.

Most Read