In 2018, the Trump administration issued a proposal that would have placed employment requirements on individuals receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), making it significantly harder for up to 1.3 million Americans — predominantly Black women and Latinas who are currently disproportionately impacted by the pandemic — to receive this often vital and necessary federal assistance.
The proposed requirement change was immediately blocked by a federal injunction pending further lawsuits and litigation. But now, eliminating the need for that legal work to even take place, the Biden administration has abandoned those new requirements, restoring SNAP benefits to where they stood before President Trump tried to limit them.
Health reporter Shefali Luthra of nonprofit newsroom The 19th wrote that “the Biden administration’s move to withdraw the rule means that, in many states, people who are unemployed will remain eligible for food stamps even after the coronavirus crisis ends.”
“The Trump administration had anticipated about 700,000 people would have lost access to food stamps if the policy took effect,” said Luthra. “But an independent analysis by the Brookings Institution, which looked at individual estimates from every state, put the figure much higher: at least 1.3 million people. That estimate was done before the COVID-19 crisis spurred far worse economic conditions.”
According to Lauren Bauer, an economics fellow at Brookings who studied the effects of Trump’s policy, “It would be horrendous for the economy for all of these people who lost income to be kicked off SNAP in three months because they’re not working, because there are no jobs available. Unlike in previous recessions where male-dominated industries tended to be more affected … Women would have been negatively affected by a work requirement for SNAP more than usual.”
Food insecurity, or the lack of consistent, stable access to healthy food, was already an issue in a pre-COVID-19 America and has only been worsened one year into the pandemic. According to Luthra, “as of early March , 22 million adults, or about 11% of all U.S. adults, reported not having enough food for their households at some point in the past week. Research suggests that increasing SNAP benefits is one of the most effective ways to combat the problem.”