Updated: December 06, 2019 12:16 PM
Created: December 05, 2019 11:32 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Thousands of New Yorkers using the federal food stamp program known as SNAP, may soon lose out on their benefits.
Wednesday, the Trump administration announced it would make changes to the work requirements needed to remain eligible.
The rule impacts what the USDA calls “able-bodied” people between the ages of 18 and 49 who don’t have children and are not disabled.
Representatives from the non-profit food bank Foodlink say, the move is concerning, as a removal of benefits could impact more than 80,000 New Yorkers.
"They're low-income individuals, they're struggling to get by, they need that extra help putting food on the table," Public Relations Coordinator Mark Dwyer said.
Foodlink provides donated foods to local food pantries and shelters.
Dwyer says a cut to benefits may leave people scrambling for options.
Per the USDA, the current SNAP rules require you to work at least 20 hours a week.
If you can't find a job, the state or a county can get you a special waiver if your area’s unemployment rate is slightly above the national average of 3.8%.
Though, the new rule raised the waiver requirement to be used only in places with at least a 6% rate. In Monroe County, the rate is currently 4.0%.
Trump's administration argues the lower national unemployment, and a better economy should make it easier to find a job. But, Dwyer says, steady work, is no guarantee.
"You still could be an able-bodied adult without a dependent, but still face a lot of barriers to employment."
While it may take time to enforce the rule, Dwyer says Foodlink will maintain a wait-and-see approach.
"We'll keep our eye on it and be prepared."
The SNAP program has previously been the subject of criticism from the administration, and there have been past attempts to change it.
In a statement, Governor Andrew Cuomo said the following:
"With this rule change, President Trump is using a federal agency he controls to continue his egregious assault on those Americans most in need. This action circumvents both the will of Congress and the flexibility that was historically afforded to states to administer nutrition assistance, and it will cause added hardship for tens of thousands of New Yorkers who are already struggling to make ends meet.
"Let's be clear: This rule change is cold, heartless and despicable - and sadly unsurprising from a federal administration that gives tax cuts and other giveaways to millionaires, billionaires and corporations while continuing to chip away at the social safety net for the most vulnerable among us."
The rule change would not take effect until April 1, 2020.
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