U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Kim Schrier held a roundtable at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank on Oct. 3 to talk about the Trump administration’s plan to further change SNAP food benefits rules and reduce the number of people using them. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Kim Schrier held a roundtable at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank on Oct. 3 to talk about the Trump administration’s plan to further change SNAP food benefits rules and reduce the number of people using them. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo

Murray, Schrier vow to fight White House restrictions on food stamps

Senator and Representative met Oct. 3 at Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank.

The Trump administration is pushing to reduce the number of people eligible for federal food assistance, which is worrying local service providers who say those restrictions would strain their ability to adequately feed people.

In July, the White House proposed making people whose gross income is greater than 130% of the federal poverty line ineligible for food stamps, or SNAP benefits. On top of this, those who have more than $2,250 in assets wouldn’t qualify either. Several other restrictions have been proposed over the past year by the Trump administration, including increased work requirements and directing immigration officers to consider whether someone seeking a green card is using SNAP.

The cumulative effect of these would be to kick millions of people off food assistance across the country. In Washington state, Sen. Patty Murray’s office issued a statement saying if the rule changes are approved it would cut off benefits for more than 60,000 children and 15,000 of the elderly. It could ultimately force more than 175,000 state residents off the program. The White House estimated that more than 3 million people in the U.S. would lose SNAP benefits.

“We have been fighting back against these changes,” Murray said at a roundtable Oct. 3 at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank, which provides food for hundreds of families.

The roundtable was also attended by U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier (D-District 8) as well as food advocates and some who have used SNAP as well as the food bank.

Christina Wong, public policy director of Northwest Harvest, said the rule changes could hurt service providers.

“We count on SNAP as a first line of defense,” Wong said.

She described the various proposed rule changes as “harmful and mean-spirited,” arguing they did nothing to address the underlying causes of hunger.

Aliya Haq, a nutritionist with International Community Health Services, said the impact will be felt especially hard in immigrant communities that would be forced to choose between providing food and running afoul of immigration authorities. This could manifest in an increased risk for malnutrition, infant mortality and emergency room trips. She said one of her patients with diabetes recently asked her how to eat a healthy diet with even more limited resources. It was a question Haq said she had to think hard about, even with two decades of experience.

“We are going to see a huge effect,” Raq said. “A huge disenrollment.”

Troy Pounds was also at the meeting. Pounds is a veteran and uses federal disability benefits as well as SNAP. While his percentage of SNAP benefits has been reducing, he said it’s still an important part of his finances. He was also worried about others.

“Above and beyond myself, I think SNAP is valuable to a lot of other people,” he said. “It at least needs to stay intact with where it is right now.”

Others at the meeting talked about how health issues also kept them from working and needing assistance securing food.

The federal poverty level is about $12,490 for one person, far less than the 2017 self-sufficiency standard proposed of more than $27,200 in Seattle and more than $33,600 on the Eastside. This disconnect between who is eligible for benefits and the reality of living in an expensive region can leave many people struggling to pay for basic necessities.

In 2017, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, there were roughly 929,000 residents using SNAP, around 13 percent of the population. Nearly 60 percent of SNAP participants were part of families with children, and one-third were in families with members who were elderly or had disabilities. About 42 percent were part of working families.

The average monthly SNAP benefit per household member was $122, with the average benefit per person per meal being $1.34. Households with seniors or disabled people tended to receive less than other categories. The average household with children in 2017 received $359 each month.

“That is the job of the federal government, to make sure children don’t go hungry,” Schreir said.

The public comment period for the proposed changes was closed on Sept. 23. AntiHunger and Nutrition Coalition director Claire Lane said Washington residents had submitted more than 17,000 comments.

Both Murray and Schrier said they would continue fighting to preserve food benefits.

More in News

Allen Chen demonstrates the art of Chinese calligraphy at a workshop during the Issaquah Highlands Lunar New Year festivities. Courtesy photo by Jenny Peng.
Issaquah Highlands celebrates Lunar New Year

Festivities for the rest of the week have been canceled.

Son allegedly shoots escaped prisoner

A man on the run from KCSO ends up at the hospital during Tiger Mountain shooting

If passed, Senate Bill 6254 would limit the nicotine concentration of vape products, ban certain flavoring chemicals and require vape manufacturers, distributors and retailers to obtain licenses from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. File photo
Lawmakers propose sweeping regulations for vaping industry

Bill supporters cite concerns over health issues and teen use.

Madison Miller/staff photo
                                Providence Point residents raise hands in support of a Providence Point speaker at the Jan. 21 city council meeting.
City council approves Providence Heights rezone

Though approved, a disappointed council desires major changes to master site plan.

A proposal by Senate Democrats would require concealed pistol license applicants in Washington state to complete a safety course. File photo
Democrats seek firearm training requirement for concealed carriers

Republican senator calls proposal ‘unconstitutional.’

Snohomish County man is first U.S. case of new coronavirus

A man in his 30s was hospitalized in Everett after contracting the virus during a trip to China.

Matt Marshall, leader of the Washington Three Percenters gun rights group, addresses a crowd rallying for Second Amendment rights Jan. 17 at the state Capitol in Olympia. Marshall condemned Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, which expelled Rep. Matt Shea from the Republican Caucus. Marshall announced his candidacy for the 2nd District seat held by House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox. Photo by Cameron Sheppard, WNPA News Service
Gun rights advocates rally at Capitol

Criticism levied at Matt Shea investigation, Republican leadership.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson (center) announced a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson in a press conference Jan. 2. Debbie Warfield of Everett (left) lost her son to a heroin overdose in 2012. Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki (right) lost her son to an overdose of OxyContin in 2017. They are joined by Rep. Lauren Davis of Shoreline (second from right), founder of the Washington Recovery Alliance. (TVW screenshot)
AG Bob Ferguson talks lawsuits, gun control

Washington state Attorney General stopped by Sound Publishing’s Kirkland office.

Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent, the primary sponsor of SB 5323, speaking on the bill. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Sabio-Howell)
Proposed law adds a fee to plastic bags at checkout

Senate passes bill to ban single-use plastic bags, place 8-cent fee on reusable plastic bags.

Most Read