As the Trump administration moves closer to stripping food stamps from as many as 750,000 low-income people by imposing punitive work requirements, a flood of nearly 30,000 comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture from experts, activists, and concerned citizens shows Americans are overwhelmingly appalled by the proposed rule change.
"The comments make it clear that most Americans not only oppose but are utterly repulsed by this plan to punish the poorest among us by denying them help to feed themselves."
—Scott Faber, Environmental Working Group
"The comments make it clear that most Americans not only oppose but are utterly repulsed by this plan to punish the poorest among us by denying them help to feed themselves," Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), said in a statement Tuesday.
"Instead of making already struggling Americans suffer even more," Faber added, "we urge President Trump to cut off the farm subsidy spigot of taxpayer money flowing into the brimming bank accounts of millionaires."
The public comment period for the Trump administration's proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) ended Tuesday night. President Donald Trump announced the rule change last year, on the same day he signed into law a farm bill that left out the GOP push for work requirements for food stamp recipients. The new rule could go into effect later this year.
Under the proposed rule, NPR reports, "the administration would stop food stamps after three months for [able-bodied adults without dependents] who don't work, volunteer, or get job training for at least 20 hours a week."
But critics were quick to point out that most food stamp recipients already work. The establishment of more barriers to nutrition assistance would be cruel, argued critics.
"Millions of adults and families depend on SNAP," wrote one commenter from Arkansas. "The idea that it should be somehow cut back while we waste billions on our bloated military and entertain the possibility of building that pathetic, soon to be Ozymandian wall is an insult to America's soul and an embarrassment in the eyes of the civilized world. If you do your homework, you'll realize that the waste in the SNAP program is negligible. Yet, you would have Americans starve as a political stunt. Have you no shame? Have you no humanity?"
"In the richest country in the world no one should go hungry," said another. "We should not allow it. It is cruel. It is un-American. Cutting taxes for the rich and letting others go hungry is just unbelievably cruel. Please do not cut off this program."
As the Center for American Progress noted in its Hands Off SNAP campaign, "Trump's proposed rule comes as we mark the one-year anniversary of his tax law—which gave more in tax breaks to the top one percent than the entire SNAP program costs."
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Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the national Poor People's Campaign, called the Trump administration's proposal an "immoral and extremist attempt to hurt the poor" in a tweet on Tuesday.
"This is a direct attack on the most vulnerable among us," Barber added, "and this policy violence cannot go unchallenged."
A reminder of this immoral & extremist attempt to hurt the poor: The Trump administration is attempting to gut food assistance. This is a direct attack on the most vulnerable among us and this policy violence cannot go unchallenged. https://t.co/myBK3Euc7c
— Rev. Dr. Barber (@RevDrBarber) April 2, 2019
Trump's proposed rule change has also drawn strong opposition from Democratic lawmakers.
"As a single mother raising two sons, I relied on food stamps to make sure my kids had food on the table," Rep. Barbara Lee tweeted on Tuesday. "Trump's newest proposal would put thousands of everyday families at risk—we can't let that happen."
As a single mother raising two sons, I relied on food stamps to make sure my kids had food on the table. Trump’s newest proposal would put thousands of everyday families at risk -- we can't let that happen. #HandsOffSNAP https://t.co/7jqg6PeMjW
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) April 2, 2019
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Tuesday, House Democrats demanded that the Trump administration withdraw its proposed rule change.
"SNAP recipients are our nation's most vulnerable—nearly 20 million are children, almost 5 million are low-income seniors, and 1.5 million are military veterans," reads the Democrats' letter, which was signed by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Ro Khanna (Calif.), and more than a dozen others. "The proposed rule is a continued pursuit of the flawed political ideology that was resoundingly rejected by Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill."