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Food stamps offer a lifeline for millions of Americans
02:51 - Source: CNNBusiness
CNN  — 

In one of its latest steps to erase Trump administration policies, the Biden administration has withdrawn a controversial proposal that could have kicked 3 million Americans off of food stamps and cost nearly 1 million children automatic eligibility for free school meals.

The proposal, issued in 2019, would have tightened the rules governing who qualifies for food stamps. It would have curtailed so-called broad-based categorical eligibility, which makes it easier for Americans with somewhat higher incomes and more savings to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the formal name for food stamps. Republicans have long argued that this expanded eligibility option is a “loophole” that permits those with higher incomes and assets to get public assistance.

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Children would have been particularly at risk from the proposed rule change since their families would have lost benefits, and they might have lost access to meals at school, said Luis Guardia, president of the Food Research & Action Center, a left-leaning group. Childhood hunger can affect academic performance, behavior and mental health.

The move comes a few months after the Biden administration put an end to another Trump-era rule that could have stripped food stamps from nearly 700,000 people. That measure, announced in late 2019, would have required more food stamp recipients to work in order to receive benefits by limiting states’ ability to waive existing work mandates.

A US district court judge blocked it from being implemented in March 2020 before striking it down in October. The Justice Department under the Trump administration initially appealed the decision, but after President Joe Biden took office, the agency asked the appellate court to dismiss the appeal, which it did.

A separate US Department of Agriculture report released this week showed that reinstating work requirements for certain food stamp recipients after the Great Recession did not increase their employment or annual earnings. Able-bodied adults without dependents are typically limited to three months of food stamps in any 36-month period unless they work or participate in certain activities – though that mandate has been waived during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Biden administration has pushed to expand access to and generosity of food stamps, saying the safety net program is critical to helping struggling Americans get through the pandemic. Hunger had spiked at the start of the outbreak, though it has fallen since then.

The President’s $1.9 trillion relief package, which he signed into law in March, extended a 15% boost to food stamp benefits through September. And the administration announced in April that 25 million Americans would see an increase in their benefits under an early federal coronavirus relief provision.