Trump administration changes to eligibility in food assistance programs coming this year will create more hunger everywhere.

Children and families will suffer. The cuts and changes in eligibility were framed as a way to save money. The Trump Administration said it needs to cut spending on food assistance to trim the budget. It apparently needs the extra money to whittle down the $1.7 trillion deficit created by 2017 tax cuts mostly to the well-to-do.

It’s a sad commentary on the priorities of the current administration.We should reject such a mean-spirited policy.

The impact of the changes became clear in a recent in-depth story by The Free Press on how those in need of food assistance might be impacted. One mom who lost her job for a month, and her child turned 18, lost her food assistance benefits. She said she was saved by the ECHO Food Shelf in Mankato.

She lost her benefits due to existing regulations where benefits end when a child turns 18 regardless of the need. Another mom had a job making $19 per hour, but without her husband working due to medical reasons, it was difficult to feed their large family. She too, was using ECHO.

Both wonder how even more strict requirements might impact their family and children.

One plan will reduce eligibility for federal food stamp program if a person gets state assistance through another program that provides funds for basic living expenses beyond food. Another federal change would remove exceptions to stringent work requirements in counties with high unemployment. It would have the effect of cutting off their food assistance even if they can’t find a job.

These programs are not handouts for those unwilling to work. In one case, the benefit allowed a mom to buy milk and big package of hamburger for her kids.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has argued that the changes will force able-bodied people to work in these times of low unemployment. But the facts suggest low unemployment has not reduced the need for food shelves.

ECHO served 13,498 recipients in 2018 and 14,443 in 2019, a 7 percent increase at a time when unemployment around 3 percent.

And while unemployment is low, the jobs available don’t pay a living wage. A 2018 report by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development showed the median wage for job openings in south central Minnesota was under $13 per hour.

Few would argue those who are able to work should do so to the best of their ability, but it seems the policy of offering a hand-up has turned into a policy of offering a hand slap.

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