Critics Worry A Trump Administration Proposal Could Limit Virginia's Ability to Help Poor Families

Sep 23, 2019

How much money should people make before they are denied food stamps? That’s a question being debated in Washington and Richmond.

People who make 130% of the federal poverty level — or less — qualify for food stamps. But what about families that make a little bit more?

Credit USDA

Laura Goren at the Commonwealth Institute says it’s important for states to have flexibility so they can help families that earn more. 

“If you don’t have this, you will have a sudden drop-off for some families where they lose all of their benefits all at once," she explains. "Which is what’s known as a benefits cliff, and can actually punish families for making a little bit more money.”

A little bit more than $21,000 a year for a family of three. That’s the cutoff.

Frank Shafroth at George Mason University says it's easy for families to fall through the cracks because of how the calculations are made.

“It turns out that living in an apartment for two or three people, there are grandparents and grandchildren," Shafroth says. "So it’s hard to fit something into the tight categories set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

This week, the Trump administration is taking public comment on a proposed rule that would prevent states from offering benefits to families that make a little bit more than the cutoff. Virginia doesn’t currently offer benefits beyond the cutoff, but critics worry that the rule change would prevent the next General Assembly from taking action to help families that make as little as $22,000 a year.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.