A proposal from the Trump administration to reform nutrition benefits is being met with pushback by Vermont's Republican governor and the state's Department for Children and Families, which says the move could affect thousands of kids in the state who rely on food support.
"I don't want to be on any kind of benefits at all," said Tammy Eaborn of Burlington, who was at the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf Tuesday, getting meal support for a loved one she said is battling homelessness.
The single mom of three, who has a part-time job and who is working toward her bachelor's degree, said she also receives SNAP benefits — once known as food stamps.
Eaborn was disappointed to hear of a USDA proposal to change eligibility rules for SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Vermont's Department for Children and Families expects changes would cost 5,200 households here $7.5 million in nutrition benefits, known in the state as 3SquaresVT.
"That would actually hurt me and my family, who's working to try to get out of the system," Eaborn told necn.
The changes would also affect free and reduced school lunch programs, according to Vermont's DCF.
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The administration of President Donald Trump has said reforms are needed, to prevent what it termed potential "abuse of a critical safety net system," and to ensure efficient and fair government.
"What we found is some states are taking advantage of loopholes that allow people to receive the SNAP benefits who would otherwise not qualify and to which they are not entitled," USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said last month when the proposed rule changes were announced. "Recently, a millionaire living in Minnesota successfully enrolled in the program simply to highlight the waste of taxpayer money."
"The people who are applying for this program really need it," countered Faye Mack of Hunger Free Vermont, who said roughly 10 percent of Vermont households face food insecurity.
"I am really worried," Mack said of the proposed changes to SNAP benefits. "This proposal is really cruel, and it's disrespectful to Vermonters who are working and trying to make ends meet and move themselves into a place of self-sufficiency."
Vermont's Republican governor, Phil Scott, and his human services agency are arguing against the ideas the USDA is floating for SNAP changes.
"I would advocate that our children are our most important asset in this state," Scott said last week when asked about his administration's opposition to the USDA's proposals. "We'll make our arguments, along with others, about why we feel it should remain the way it is today."
The public can weigh in on the proposed rule changes on this federal website through Sept. 23.