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AARP: Md. seniors would suffer from planned federal reduction in SNAP

Sarah Shepard-Kneip, program specialist at AARP Maryland (foreground), and Cathy Demeroto, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions (background), shop for groceries at Lee's Food Market in the Sandtown-Winchester community.
Sarah Shepard-Kneip, program specialist at AARP Maryland (foreground), and Cathy Demeroto, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions (background), shop for groceries at Lee's Food Market in the Sandtown-Winchester community. (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron)

The Trump administration is proposing changes to the way eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is determined (“Trump’s mingy approach to food stamps,” Aug. 23). The changes could undermine the health and food security of 3.1 million Americans nationwide.

AARP Maryland is opposed to the administration’s action, which, according to Maryland Hunger Solutions, will affect nearly 50,000 Marylanders’ ability to put food on the table for their families. Currently, 39 states including Maryland use the state option to extend eligibility to some of their residents whose income and assets may slightly exceed traditional eligibility levels. This proposal removes that flexibility and imposes stricter federal standards.

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The proposed rule substantially undermines the intent of SNAP, which is to alleviate hunger and food insecurity among low-income households. Also, people would be faced with even more red tape to get the food assistance they need if the rule moves forward. What’s more, the administration is doing an end-run around Congress, which has been fighting this effort as this recently as the 2018 Farm Bill.

Rep. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and the ranking Democrat on the Agricultural Committee, said, “This action is yet another attempt by this administration to circumvent Congress and make harmful changes to nutritional assistance that have repeatedly been rejected on a bipartisan basis.” Unfortunately, food insecurity among older Americans is already too common. An estimated 5.5 million of our fellow citizens age 60 and older were food insecure in 2017. Households with grandchildren are nearly three times as likely to be food insecure.

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Instead of forcing the poor elderly to make hard choices between paying for rent, medications, utility bills, child care and food, AARP Maryland encourages the administration to take steps to further strengthen the program to make enrollment in SNAP easier and as seamless as possible.

Jim Campbell, Baltimore

The writer is AARP Maryland state president.

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