The Trump administration’s proposed rule to tighten eligibility for food stamps could curtail the benefit for more than 11,000 Connecticut residents – a blow to the elderly, children and working poor, anti-hunger advocates say.

The administration’s proposal for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, would rein in what’s known as broad-based categorical eligibility, which has allowed 43 states, including Connecticut, to expand the number of low-income residents who qualify for food stamps.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the policy is a “loophole” that needs to be closed because it has allowed states to bypass “important eligibility guidelines.”

But anti-hunger advocates say it is needed, especially in states like Connecticut where the cost of living is high, and they expressed alarm Tuesday about the proposed changes.

“It’s horrible,” said Robin Lamott Sparks, executive director of End Hunger Connecticut!. “There are a lot of families who are going to be hurt by this.”

The USDA’s new rule would halt states’ ability to distribute food stamps to people earning more than 130 percent of poverty guidelines, which is $33,475 for a family of four.

Connecticut currently allows those who earn up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level to enroll in SNAP. Some states have set a cap at 200 percent.

If the proposed rule is finalized – it could be modified after a public comment period – an asset limit of $2,250 would also be imposed on nearly all recipients.

The Connecticut Department of Social Services estimates there are about 11,000 state residents who have a gross income of 131 percent of the poverty level or higher and would be at risk of losing their benefits. About 364,000 residents receive food stamps.

The state agency also said that since Connecticut does not request or capture asset information for the majority of SNAP-enrolled households, there is no way to immediately determine how many additional residents would lose their foods stamps for failing a re-instituted asset test.

“This would have an extremely negative impact on the ability of thousands of low-income Connecticut residents to access food assistance through the SNAP program,” DSS spokesman David Dearborn said.

In a cost-benefit analysis, the USDA estimates that tightening the policy would cut 3.1 million people nationally from the program, saving taxpayers about $1.9 billion a year. The USDA also said the proposed change “may negatively impact food security.”

The USDA said expansion of eligibility in states like Connecticut has opened the door for fraud and abuse, making it too easy for people to receive benefits that should only go to those who truly need them. Officials in the department have pointed to a Minnesota man with a net worth of more than $1 million who applied for and received food stamps.

Because children in families that receive food stamps also qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, Deb Polun, executive director of the Connecticut Association for Community Action, said the proposed rule would have a ripple effect.

“This proposal could cause thousands of people in Connecticut – children, older adults, people with disabilities and working families – to lose SNAP benefits, and could jeopardize access to school lunches for many low-income students,” Polun said.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, a champion of the SNAP program, said about 500,000 children would lose access to school meals if the rule were implemented.

“President Trump and Secretary Perdue are waging a war against the most vulnerable people in our country,” she said.

DeLauro said the “heartless” rule was drafted “in a desperate attempt to implement these cruel provisions because Congress rejected them in last year’s Farm Bill.”

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is weighing a legal response.

“This is another cruel and pointless policy from President Trump,” he said. “The Trump administration has no problem wasting taxpayer dollars on tax breaks for the rich, gratuitous parades and golf outings, but decides to cut corners when it comes to food for families in need?

“We will do everything we can to fight this rule on behalf of Connecticut’s most vulnerable families.”

Avatar photo

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

Avatar photo

Jenna CarlessoHealth Reporter

Jenna is CT Mirror’s Health Reporter, focusing on health access, affordability, quality, equity and disparities, social determinants of health, health system planning, infrastructure, processes, information systems, and other health policy. Before joining CT Mirror Jenna was a reporter at The Hartford Courant for 10 years, where she consistently won statewide and regional awards. Jenna has a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor or Arts degree in Journalism from Grand Valley State University.

Join the Conversation

9 Comments

  1. With Ct’s 15 dollar an hr. minimum wage increase benifits should be cut.wasn’t that the purpose of it less dependency on hand outs

    1. Hi John, in the interest of providing context, the state government approved the minimum wage hike, not the federal government. This is the federal government looking to reduce SNAP benefits — which is entirely unrelated to Connecticut’s minimum wage hike. It is also worth noting these cuts to SNAP benefits would happen long before the minimum wage reaches $15 in 2023.

      1. Not sure but is the Mirror is an unbiased news media outlet or an outlet of the Democratic party? Your reply misses the mark. Whether $10 or $15, folks only making this much still qualify for the program. John’s comment meant – An increase to minimum wage drives everyone’s pay up. As wages go up , the amount of those reliant on welfare should go down.

        Your article says “The USDA’s new rule would halt states’ ability to distribute food stamps to people earning more than 130 percent of poverty guidelines, which is $33,475 for a family of four…
        Connecticut currently allows those who earn up to 185 percent…”

        That means in CT a family of 4 can be on Snap while they’re earning over $61,000.00. There are a lot of people on public welfare in the state who are not in poverty. The answer is not to maintain the land of steady habits but to help people succeed on their own. If you want to have a debate, the issues are the determination of the poverty level, why CT never recovered and why jobs aren’t available here. BTW, many college graduates with families earn less than $60K out of school, and they are not living in poverty.

      2. Hi Fred, we are a nonprofit, nonpartisan news outlet. The previous commenter was suggesting that it would be logical to reduce SNAP benefits after voting to raise the minimum wage. If both actions were happening at the same level of government, this would be a valid point. However, the Trump administration is not cutting SNAP benefits nationwide in response to Connecticut’s minimum wage increase. The two issues are unrelated.

  2. What has to be eliminated is the fraud! Those are the people the government/state should go after! The fact that Connecticut does not check eligibility is a major part of the problem! The people committing the fraud should definitely be fined because they are the ones taking away from the needy!????

  3. If the State of Connecticut focused more on SNAP Fraud. Maybe, we wouldn’t have 11,000 people on SNAP Benefits. Why do people think small convenience stores with literally no inventory on the shelves, have 4′ x 4′ signs in their windows stating “We take EBT”.

  4. The SNAP program should be limited to truly low-income people – not middle-class people. Also, it is completely reasonable to have an asset test for SNAP recipients.

  5. I have no problem with tightening the eligibility requirements. Perhaps then my 30-something daughter might be forced to stand on her own 2 feet and recognize that it’s time to become self-sufficient. Smart kid, but lazy and quite well-versed at gaming the system. Thankfully my granddaughter sees through how her mom has lived her life and has no intention of following in mom’s footsteps.

  6. The people whom I know receive food stamps purchase the most expensive foodstuffs and then sell them black market on Craigs List.
    This is no different than when the Clinton administration reformed Welfare which allowed him to balance the Federal budget. This is long overdue but no where near enough to be done.

Leave a comment