USDA proposes crackdown on food stamps

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LANSING, MI (WILX) - A lot of struggling families are at risk of losing their SNAP benefits.

Pixabay / MGN

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a new plan to eliminate automatic enrollment for those who are already part of other programs.

Right now, most states including Michigan, allow those who are part of some welfare programs to automatically enroll in the SNAP program.

The change could impact more than three million Americans.

"Any time there is limitations on the eligibility for the SNAP program, more people are removed from the program and then in need of food, and then they come to food pantries in our network," said Kait Skwir with the Food Bank Council of Michigan.

Because the information is so new, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services doesn't have a number for how many people will be affected.

A spokesperson says it would likely be a small percent of the one million Michiganders in the program.

"These are people with incomes that are very close to the poverty threshold, and so their ability to save and move toward self-sufficiency is dramatically impacted by losing a benefit like food assistance," said Skwir.

The Michigan League for Public Policy, a nonpartisan group, says the change could also impact the economy.

"They're not buying things on Amazon. They're not paying off old credit card debt. What they're doing with those federal dollars is they are buying food from a local grocery store," said Peter Ruark with the Michigan League for Public Policy.

USDA officials say this will close a "loophole" that allows people to abuse the system.

In Michigan, that's about .3% of recipients, according to MDHHS.

"I don't think I would call this a loophole. We do have programs in place to find fraud when there's any fraud occurring with the food assistance program or other programs," said Bob Wheaton with MDHHS.

MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said, “Instead of supporting work, this proposal punishes full-time earners. Instead of targeting fraud and abuse, this proposal goes after families playing by all the rules. It is a radical break from a long-standing, bipartisan approach to food assistance.”

The Trump administration says this plan would save $2.5 billion.

You have an opportunity to let the government know your thoughts about the proposal.

To do that, click the link to the right of this story.

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