White House

Last year’s food stamps battle was contentious. This year Trump upped the ante

The Trump administration budget wants food stamp recipients under 65 to have work requirements

Copies of President Donald Trump’s budget for Fiscal Year 2020 run through the binding process at the Government Publishing Office in Washington on Thursday, March 7, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Trump administration would expand the pool of adult food stamp recipients subject to work, job-training or community service requirements to include people up to age 65, according to fiscal 2020 budget documents released Monday.

The proposal is broader than provisions in last year’s contentious House farm bill that called for applying work requirements under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, to able-bodied adults between the ages 18 and 59 with no dependents or with children older than 6. The proposal would have raised the age limit for adults subject to the work requirement from age 49.

The final farm bill that passed both chambers in 2018 did not include the House language. The White House language makes no mention of possible exemptions for adults responsible for young children or other dependents.

The administration proposes $69 billion in mandatory funding for SNAP in fiscal 2020, including a $3 billion contingency reserve that would be good through Dec 31, 2021. Congress provided $73.5 billion, including a contingency reserve, in mandatory funding for the program in the current fiscal year.

The fiscal 2019-enacted funding is $537 million less than provided in fiscal 2018. The program provides food aid to about 40 million people, the majority of whom are children and the elderly.

In its justification for the proposal, the administration says SNAP recipients and the economy will benefit from a greater emphasis on work.

“The Budget proposes to strengthen the SNAP work requirements by requiring that all able-bodied adult participants between the ages of 18 and 65 engage in at least 20 hours or more of employment, employment-related training, or community service in order to receive benefits. This will help more people get off the sidelines of this booming economy and onto the path toward self-sufficiency,” the budget documents said.

The expanded work requirement age is part of a package of changes to SNAP the Trump administration estimates would cut program spending by $17.4 billion in fiscal 2020 and $219.8 billion over fiscal years 2020 through 2029.

The administration's fiscal 2020 request represents a $4.5 billion decline in funding for the program, much smaller than the OMB projection of $17.4 billion in cuts to the program if a package of proposed changes including the higher age for work requirements were imposed.

The other changes are similar to past proposals such as ending broad-based categorical eligibility for SNAP for people who receive non-cash assistance from the federal welfare program known as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

The proposed changes also include converting part of a SNAP beneficiary’s monthly food benefits to a monthly "harvest box" with items such as shelf-stable milk, ready-to-eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry or fish. People receiving $90 or more a month in benefits would be affected.

Watch: Why presidential budget requests are usually dead on arrival, explained

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.