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Re-regulating to help ensure that public benefits are used to move beneficiaries toward self-sufficiency

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) this month proposed eliminating a loophole that allows states to make recipients of minimal amounts of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare) benefits automatically eligible to participate in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps).

Regular readers of The Lobster are familiar with how these pages have documented the steps that USDA has taken to increase the integrity of the SNAP program, including the elimination of opportunities for fraud and abuse of the program.

The proposed rule published in the Federal Register would limit SNAP/TANF automatic eligibility to households that receive substantial, ongoing TANF-funded benefits aimed at helping families move towards self-sufficiency.

 This loophole has increased the number of SNAP recipients in some states by include people who receive unneeded assistance. In a news release trumpeting the regulatory revision, USDA calls the problem, which the rule change is intended to correct, egregious.

 The Department claims that billions of tax dollars are being squandered through this loophole. As an example, its release points to the case of a millionaire receiving benefits in Minnesota. In the eyes of the Department, the new regulation will allow government to deliver SNAP consistently to only to those most in need of the benefit.

The release cites Department Secretary Sonny Perdue in promoting the new regulation “For too long, this loophole has been used to effectively bypass important eligibility guidelines. Too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint,”

Secretary Perdue added, “The American people expect their government to be fair, efficient, and to have integrity – just as they do in their own homes, businesses, and communities. That is why 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.”