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Proposed Food Stamp Rule Changes May Affect More Than 3 Mln Americans

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The Trump administration decided to close a loophole that allowed undeserved people to get automatically enrolled in the program meant for poor families who receive food aid.

The proposal by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is estimated to eliminate 3.1 million people, or 8 percent of recipients, from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as food stamp benefits.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said this loophole has long been used to effectively bypass important eligibility guidelines. He alleged that many states have misused this flexibility.

"We are changing the rules, preventing abuse of a critical safety net system, so those who need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it," he said in a press conference announcing the drastic policy change.

The proposed rule, published in the Federal Register, would limit automatic eligibility to households that receive TANF-funded benefits, and would fix a loophole that has expanded SNAP recipients in some states, many of whom clearly don't need it.

USDA cited the case of a millionaire living in Minnesota, who successfully enrolled in the program simply to highlight the waste of taxpayer money.

Under the proposal, a household must receive TANF-funded cash or non-cash benefits valued at a minimum of $50 per month for at least 6 months to be eligible for food stamps.

Purdue said cutting food-stamp spending helps USDA save $2.5 billion a year, ensuring nutrition assistance programs are delivered with consistency and to those most in need.

The proposal was criticized by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who called it an "act of staggering callousness."

"This proposal perfectly showcases the Republicans' cynical special interest agenda that gives billion-dollar handouts to big corporations and the wealthy few, and then steals from children, veterans, seniors and working families to make up the difference," she said.

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