By Sarah Reinhardt, Union of Concerned Scientists
As the weather turns colder, many of us are pulling out our bulkiest sweaters and diving headlong into hygge. But as we reach for all of our coziest creature comforts to stay warm this winter, there’s one thing that no one should have to worry about: choosing between our heating bill and our grocery list.
Last month, the Trump administration proposed yet another rule that would cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (better known as SNAP, or food stamps) benefits for families across the country. And the target this month is a provision called the standard utility allowance, or SUA. It’s an estimate of the average cost of utilities, including heating and cooling, that a household participating in SNAP pays each month, and it’s used to help calculate household monthly benefits. In other words, the SUA exists to make sure that families never have to choose between paying for their water or electric bills and receiving the SNAP benefits they need to put food on the table.
Currently, states have the power to determine how SUAs are calculated and to set a threshold that meets the needs of their populations. The administration wants to change that, setting a uniform standard that would result in a net loss of $4.5 billion in benefits over a period of five years. Some states stand to lose as much as 20 percent of their total benefits.
This is the fourth rule of this kind that has been proposed by the Trump administration—all of which have been proposed in the name of integrity or equity, and all of which would cut benefits for households receiving SNAP. We’re not buying it.