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Proposed Food Stamp Roll-Back to Affect A Quarter Million Californians

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Roughly a quarter-million Californians might not qualify for food stamps under a new proposal by the Trump administration, opponents of the proposal said the move will affect families who already struggle financially.

People who make 130 percent and below the federal poverty level qualify for food stamps, but residents of states with high costs of living such as in California may qualify for food assistance even if their income is double the poverty level.

The Trump administration proposes to rid of the “categorical eligibility” that gives California and 40 other states the ability to adjust their food assistance services for people who earn beyond the poverty level to qualify due to their hefty living expenses.

Jessica Bartholow is the lead Anti-Hunger Policy Advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, she said about 250,000 Californians will lose their Cal Fresh assistance.

“They will experience hunger,” Bartholow said. “The most recent proposal by the Trump administration would make the program more difficult to reach people who are working, people who have children in their household.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue said that the proposal will save the federal government more than $9 million over the next five years.

However, experts who work in food assistance programs, such as Find Food Bank President and CEO, Debbie Espinosa, said the proposal would worsen hunger for Americans.

“Even with categorical eligibility, there are still people who struggle,” Espinosa said. “We have over 90 thousand people that we serve every month and many of those are Cal Fresh qualifying recipients, so that’s not just homeless that’s a lot of people that are working.”

She said if residents who live in high-cost states cannot include their monthly rent, medical expenses, and other deductions into their food stamp application, many more Californians will rely more on food bank charities.

Espinosa said, “Even with multiple incomes coming-in, the high cost of living is so high that with two-jobs it could still be difficult to make ends meet.”

The revision of the categorical eligibility for food stamps is under a 60 day public comment period, federal governmental staff reviews the written letters before a decision is reached.