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Food Stamp Loss Expected To Hit Poor Illinoisans

Nathan Forget
Flickr (BY-CC 2.0)
Hundreds of thousands of able-bodied Food Stamp beneficiaries across the nation are expected to lose that assistance in April.

Likely more than 100,000 Illinoisans will lose food stamps under a rule change finalized by President Donald’s Trump administration this week. 

The changes to food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), make it tougher for states to waive work and time limit requirements for able-bodied adults to get the benefit.  The federal decision takes effect in April.

“The ruling by the Trump administration to slash access to nutrition assistance this week is just yet another devastating blow for individuals trying to put food on the table,” Melissa Young, director of national initiatives for the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance, said. “This rule will absolutely hit those who have historically been — and to continue to be — marginalized, left out and denied opportunity.”

But Jonathan Ingram, an Illinois-based policy analyst at the conservative Foundation for Government Accountability, says the change will benefit both the economy and the individual. “The president has clearly delivered one of the biggest welfare reforms in a generation, moving more able-bodied adults back from welfare to work,” he said.

“We should stop trying to define people by their barriers and really start recognizing their potential. Work isn't a bad four-letter word,” Ingram said while on the NPR program On Point. “It’s not a punishment. It’s a force for good in people’s lives.”

Young has a different view.

“The thing we know from past experience is that work requirements do not end or reduce poverty,” she said. “They do not increase individual's well-being, and, in fact, they make individuals and families more vulnerable.”

Also, she said, the majority of those who will lose eligibility already work but are underemployed, or they face barriers to getting jobs such as  transportation issues or a work shortage in their community.

“This rule will harm Illinois’ economy as well as the national economy,’’ Young said. “It will harm grocery retailers (and) agricultural producers by reducing the amount of SNAP dollars available to spur local economic activity and support communities.”

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.
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