PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides food stamps to 40 million people.

Now a change could cut that number by 700,000 people.

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“The Trump administration this morning formally released a new rule that would eliminate eligibility for so-called able-bodied adults without dependents. It would limit their eligibility to only three months,” said Ann Sanders, public policy advocate for Just Harvest.

Food security advocates say it could deny food stamps to 60,000 in Pennsylvania and 1,900 in Allegheny County before they are able to find jobs.

The Trump administration wants to tighten the work requirements for able-bodied adults under age 50 without dependents, limiting eligibility for food stamps to three months on the assumption that’s enough time to find a job.

“Employers across the commonwealth are complaining about a shortage of workers,” says Elizabeth Stelle of the Commonwealth Foundation.

The conservative foundation says the solution is not letting people become dependent on food stamps.

“This change helps people who are in a system go back to work, get experience, get education and strive towards those jobs that are going to make them independent,” Stelle told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.

Delano: “Because it denies them food stamps?”
Stelle: “Well, they have three months to find work or to find education.”

Dominique Davis Sanders of Braddock knows what it’s like to be kicked off food stamps before he had a paying job.

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“There was no help coming in. My mom would help me, but other than that, there was nothing I could do. It was either pay a bill or eat,” he says.

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“His benefits were stopped because they thought he wasn’t meeting this work requirement and he had hit the time limit,” says Ann Sanders of Just Harvest.

“But as it turned out, he was taking care of his dad and he was taking a bunch of webinars and classes to learn about medical billing.”

Just Harvest helped him get back on food stamps, but others say long-term dependence is not a solution.

Delano: “Are these folks able-bodied?”

Sanders: “So our experience with this is that most of these folks are not able to work, either they have a mental health disability or physical health disability.”

But supporters say it returns SNAP to rules before the recession and encourages people to get back to work quickly.

“We found that 80,000 to 100,000 Pennsylvanians would rejoin the workforce,” says Stelle.

“That’s incredibly encouraging and that’s something we should be striving.”

“Many employers are willing to train you if you’re willing to show up and work hard. And so this policy change just encourages people to go out into our communities and take advantage of those opportunities,” adds Stelle.

But food advocates like Just Harvest say cutting food stamps is counter-productive.

“We know when people lose their food stamps, they eat less, it’s actually harder to get a job when you lose food assistance, harder to stay healthy,” says Sanders.

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The new rules take effect on April 1st.