More than 6 million people have dropped off the rolls of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program since President Donald Trump took office, according to new federal data.
According to figures released Friday from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, as of November — the last month for which data is available — 36,223,717 individuals were on SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. As of January 2017 when Trump took office, there were 42,715,593 individuals on SNAP.
The SNAP program cost American taxpayers $63.7 billion in fiscal year 2017, when Trump took office. During the 2019 federal fiscal year, which ended in September, the program cost $53.7 billion.
In his Feb. 4 State of the Union address, Trump noted that the reduction in the food stamp rolls is part of an overall economic revival that has been the hallmark of his administration, according to a White House copy of the speech.
“Since my election, we have created 7 million new jobs — 5 million more than government experts projected during the previous administration. The unemployment rate is the lowest in over half a century. And very incredibly, the average unemployment rate under my administration is lower than any administration in the history of our country,” Trump said.
“Under the last administration, more than 10 million people were added to the food stamp rolls. Under my administration, seven million Americans have come off food stamps, and 10 million people have been lifted off of welfare,” he said, referencing figures current as of the time of his speech.
“In eight years under the last administration, over 300,000 working-age people dropped out of the workforce. In just three years of my administration, 3.5 million people — working-age people — have joined the workforce.”
The White House has noted that the roaring economy has brought Americans back to work.
“The prime-age labor force has grown by 2.1 million people since the election, reversing losses under the prior administration’s expansion period, which totaled approximately 1.5 million people. This evidence suggests that the labor market’s revival over the past three years is not a continuation of past trends, but instead a result of President Trump’s pro-growth policies,” the White House wrote in a December report on the labor force, the number of Americans working or seeking work.
The report noted that the economy means many Americans are now earning more money.
“For 16 straight months, annual nominal wage growth has been at or above 3 percent, a level not reached since the Great Recession, and continues to outpace inflation. Importantly, wage growth for many disadvantaged groups is now higher than wage growth for more advantaged groups, as is the case for lower-income workers compared to higher-income workers, workers compared to managers, and African Americans compared to whites,” the report said.
One official said the economy is lifting Americans off of SNAP.
“We have had the longest economic expansion in the history of the U.S under President Trump,” Brandon Lipps, the deputy undersecretary for Food Nutrition and Consumer Services, said in January, according to the Washington Examiner.
“Employers are hungry for employees, and they have now moved into employment. It’s because they’re employed and above the level of poverty that they no longer qualify for SNAP.”
SNAP rates may fall even further under a new Trump administration rule announced in December that seeks to increase the work requirement for some SNAP recipients.
According to law, adults between 18 and 49 without dependents who can work are limited to three months of benefits over 36 months unless they are working or are in a job training program for at least 20 hours per week. However, states can apply to the federal government for waivers of that requirement, citing high unemployment. The new rule makes it harder for states to get a waiver.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said that the administration wants to end dependency on Washington programs.
“Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch. Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream. We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand,” said Perdue in a news release
Perdue elaborated on his philosophy for SNAP in an opinion piece published in December by the Arizona Daily Star.
“Our SNAP program should be structured to work with our changing economy, not be stuck in the past,” Perdue wrote “This is why I made it a top priority to ensure people have the tools they need to move away from SNAP dependency and back toward self-sufficiency. At the USDA we are working to restore the original intent of SNAP — one that provides a safety net for those in need but encourages accountability and self-sufficiency.”
“The USDA’s actions to reform SNAP restore the dignity of work to a sizable segment of our population, while also respecting the taxpayers who fund the program. Our action to encourage work will help fill the critical need for more workers in our economy,” Perdue wrote.
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