The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed a measure that could potentially limit Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for millions of shoppers.
The rule would close a loophole that allowed a millionaire living in Minnesota to enroll in the program as a way to prove a point about the system. It would potentially cut benefits to about 3 million people and would save the USDA $2.5 billion, according to a report from The Washington Post.
The measure comes at a time when grocers are starting to delve into online delivery for SNAP participants.
The new constraints limit SNAP/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) automatic eligibility to households that receive "substantial, ongoing" TANF benefits, and would no longer allow states to make participants receiving TANF automatically eligible to participate in SNAP.
Instead, automatic eligibility under SNAP would require that a household receive TANF-funded cash or noncash benefits valued at at least $50 per month for at least six months. Also, noncash benefits that could potentially convey automatic eligibility would be restricted to subsidized employment, works support or child care.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said the loophole has been used to effectively bypass important eligibility guidelines for "too long" and "too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint."
"The American people expect their government to be fair, efficient and to have integrity—just as they do in their own homes, businesses, and communities," Perdue said. "That is why we are changing the rules, preventing abuse of a critical safety net system, so those who need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it.”