The Trump Administration has finalized new rules that state officials say would make more than one-thousand Mainers ineligible for food assistance, starting next April.
The new rule makes it more difficult for states to waive a requirement that able-bodied adults without children to work, take part in work training or volunteer for at least 20 hours a week — or else lose their benefits under the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP).
Good Shepherd Food Bank president Kristen Miale says the rule won't put more people back to work:
“There are significant barriers for many people, for them to successfully retain full employment,” Miale says. “And where we stand, taking away someone's ability to have access to food is not going to address those barriers and is not going to result in somebody securing full employment.”
Miale says that for many Mainers in rural areas, job opportunities, training or a qualifying volunteer opportunity are very far from home.
“So for people who are living in rural parts of Maine they are going to be significantly challenged to meet these requirements,” she says.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services shared a statement by email:
"We are disappointed in this rule change, which threatens access to nutritious food for people who live in rural areas with economic and employment challenges. We estimate that 1,300 individuals in Maine could be affected, but the Department will continue providing their food supplement benefits through the end of this summer using existing federal resources. The Department will reapply for Maine’s waiver once the federal government determines which geographic areas may still qualify."
Congress previously considered making a similar change, but voted not to. During its public comment period, the new rule drew more than 100,000 responses.
“Congress already debated this in the last farm bill, and struck it down. Bipartisan, both said no this is not good policy,” Miale says. “So this is basically going around Congress, and changing the law that congress already passed.”