- We’re Not Going to Be Able to Survive’: Why Californians Could Bear the Brunt of Trump Food Stamp Cuts
More than 1,200 Humboldtians stand to lose their coverage in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) if President Trump’s recently announced changes take place. On July 23, the United States Department of Agriculture announced a proposal to close what they deem a “loophole” in the program that allows states to provide assistance to households that are 130 percent above the federal poverty line, which is a whopping $25,750 for a family of four. But given California’s higher costs of living, rollbacks are estimated to affect nearly 120,000 Californians.
The cuts in the program have yet to take place and the proposal is still within a 60-day public comment period.
In Humboldt County there are more than 21,000 people using SNAP benefits and more than 6,000 of them are children. The Outpost reached out to Humboldt’s Department of Health and Human Services to run the numbers. To reach the figure of 1,200 locals at risk of losing their benefits, DHHS used a calculation from the County Welfare Directors Association of California that found roughly 6.2 percent of CalFresh recipients would be affected by the change.
“The proposed rule makes the eligibility process more complex,” said Nancy Starck, Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services legislative & policy manager. “People will be required to submit more paperwork and go through more steps to get and keep CalFresh. We continue to encourage people to apply and will do everything we can to make the process as seamless as possible.”
Local food banks could also be affected by the change. Carly Robbins is the development director at Food for People and said the changes could have a huge impact on their already strapped services. Food for People runs 16 food pantries that serve nearly 12,000 people a month countywide. Robbins said most of their clientele are working-class families and the underemployed who use their services to make ends meet. She also said about 4,000 children use their services as well as nearly 3,000 seniors.
“We live in a county with a high cost of living and not a high amount of pay,” Robbins told the Outpost. “The cost of living makes it really hard.”
Food for People is mainly funded through grants and fundraising efforts. Robbins said they are pretty much at capacity for the number of people they can serve, and a large influx of people could be devastating.
“I’m worried that people who are living on the edge of poverty have to choose between rent, transportation and health care, and the loss of one benefit could send a household into a crisis,” Robbins said. “We are worried about what that would mean for services in our community and the services at the food bank.”
DHHS shared with the Outpost a joint press release from a number of food banks and poverty centers across the state that agree with Robbins’ conclusion.
“Not only will the proposed rule change increase food insecurity and incidences of hunger among low-income working families with children, it will also exacerbate the ‘cliff effect’ that forces families off of aid when they improve earnings before they meet their food needs,” the statement reads. “If comments collected in the 60-day comment period fail to discourage the administration from publishing the final rule, we will take whatever steps are necessary to prevent hunger and protect the rights of low-income Californians.”