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Trump Admin's Proposed Food Stamp Eligibility Changes Could Cut Vermonters' Benefits

A grocery cart in a store aisle.
Proposed changed to SNAP at the federal level could affect many Vermonters receiving food assistance.

The Trump administration's planned changes to the way states determine eligibility for food stamps could impact Vermonters, cutting off households from benefits and potentially limiting the ability of schools to offer free lunches.

The administration wants to change how states determine eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP or food stamps. The administration says it wants to close what it calls a "loophole" in SNAP that allows states to raise or eliminate some income and asset limits.

A majority of states, including Vermont, use this option, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 3 million people could lose their food assistance nationwide. In Vermont, SNAP is known as 3SquaresVT.

Faye Mack, advocacy and education director for Hunger Free Vermont, said that a significant number of Vermont households receive SNAP through the expanded eligibility and could lose benefits through the change.

"Households who are actually approved and receiving benefits due to this broad-based categorical eligibility are households that have slightly higher income, but they have significant expenses," Mack said. "And we know in Vermont that expenses like housing and child care are quite high, and many families are struggling to afford those sorts of expenses and their basic needs, like food."

According to Mack, just over 70,000 Vermonters receive monthly SNAP program benefits. Mack said efforts are under way to get a better sense of exactly how many of those Vermonters could be affected by this rule change.

"We're hoping to have that data in the coming days, but I will say that it will have a significant impact," Mack said.

Listen to Faye Mack's conversation with VPR's Mitch Wertlieb above.

In addition, Mack said that the same eligibility process is used to determine what children receive free school lunches, and changes to the way Vermont determines eligibility could ripple out to affect even more kids.

"Many of the schools in Vermont are able to provide universal school meals — which are school breakfast and lunch provided at no cost to the children at school — and schools are able to do that in part because of the percentage of children in their school who are enrolled in the 3SquaresVT program," Mack said.

"So if families are kicked off of the 3SquaresVT program because of this rule change, the number of schools who are eligible to offer universal school meals will likely go down as well."

The USDA's comment period on the proposed change runs through Sept. 23. Hunger Free Vermont is also collecting commentsfrom Vermonters about the federal proposal.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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