Food experts worry as USDA reinstates food stamp recertification

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is reinstating pre-pandemic rules that require applicants already approved for food stamps to prove their income is low enough to keep the benefits.

Though the USDA says it will give states some wiggle room in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or SNAP — recertification process, food assistance advocates fear millions of needy families could fall through the cracks.

“It’s quite alarming, especially for households with children,” said Dottie Rosenbaum of the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which encourages policies that combat poverty.

The process requires extra paperwork and sometimes interviews. The USDA waived it in March to help states process a flood of new SNAP applicants faster. It goes back into effect this month.

Rosenbaum argued the USDA should not reinstate the rules.

“While some things have gotten a little bit better since the beginning of the pandemic, we’re nowhere near back to normal,” she said. “There’s a real risk that (many applicants will) lose food assistance when they’re put through this process of having to reprove their eligibility.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., agreed.

“We have folks that have never before needed food help and need it now,” Stabenow said. “We need to have additional support through SNAP. … This is a once-in-a-life time pandemic. We need to be stepping up.”

But U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has stood by his decision to return to normal protocol. His office said states have had ample time to prepare for high volumes, and added that areas with exceptionally high unemployment can still apply for waivers to speed up applications.

“As long as communities and areas of labor force are above that unemployment cap,” Perdue explained.

The waiver application process is monthly.

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