PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, but most call it food stamps, except now it’s provided on a debit card, an electronic benefits transfer or EBT card.
“SNAP is a critically important program to over 1.8 million people in Pennsylvania,” says Pennsylvania Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas.
“It helps them be able to put food on the table for kids, it helps seniors who might otherwise go hungry, and it helps people navigate through what can be a tough time when they lose their job or are unemployed,” Dallas told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Tuesday.
Dallas says most people here on food stamps are children and the elderly.
“There’s over 700,000 recipients of SNAP, or what people used to call food stamps, that are kids, and 260,000 of them are senior citizens or the elderly,” he said.
But President Donald Trump says too many others have become dependent on SNAP, so his budget eliminates benefits for those, he says, should not get them.
One way, says the president, is to require all non-elderly able-bodied food recipients without children or dependents to work, or be in job training, or do community service.
The Heritage Foundation estimates 4.2 million adults in this category, collecting $8.5 billion in food stamp benefits.
Dallas is not against a work requirement, but he says it takes money to set that up.
“Without that additional money to stand up those employment and training programs and be able to fund those, to say that everyone should have a work requirement — that’s a little disingenuous for the federal government to say that without providing funding to provide that job training,” he said.
Some 44 million Americans were on the program last year, and President Trump’s recent budget changes the way it is funded.
“This budget is going to completely decimate SNAP,” says Traci Weatherford-Brown from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
“It’s a program that really provides stability for families. Eighty-three percent of people who use SNAP, their household includes an elderly person, a disabled person, or a child,” adds Weatherford-Brown.
Dallas says the Trump budget cuts food assistance to states just when it should provide money to set up job training programs for able-bodied food stamp recipients.
“There’s a massive cost shift to the states envisioned in this budget,” says Dallas. “By 2023, the program that is now 100 percent federal, they want the state to pick up 25 percent of that. Twenty-five percent of the $2.7 billion budget we have is $675 million.”
Unless state taxpayers come up with the $675 million, current food assistance would be cut.
But the president says the states need to take responsibility for more food stamp costs to incent them to do more to crack down on fraud.
Secretary Dallas says Pennsylvania already does that.
“Our rate of accuracy in determining food stamp eligibility as measured by the federal government is one of the higher ones in the country,” he said.
Changes, if any, must be approved by Congress.