Changes in SNAP could cut over 38,000 West Virginian's benefits

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West Virginia (WDTV) — The Trump administration proposed three eligibility changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP, in 2019. The changes include restricting state work requirement waivers, restricting family eligibility and a change in how utility allowances are calculated.

The Urban Institute found that if these changes were to be enacted to the SNAP program, many West Virginians would have their benefits cut.

A survey by the Urban Institute released this week revealed these changes could lead to over 3.5 million Americans losing food stamps.

In West Virginia, where nearly 20% of residents depend on SNAP benefits, this poses a bleak future.

According to a press release from the West Virginia Department of Education, state administrators expect more than 120,000 households to be affected by the proposed changes.

Brian Kiehl, the Director of Child Nutrition in Monongalia County Schools, says most of their students will not have to worry.

"For us, we are not extremely concerned. Because, based on the data from the USDA, we believe that 99% of our SNAP recipients that currently receive free meals with Monongalia County Schools. 99% of them will qualify based on their income," said Kiehl.

He said the Department of Education is focused on counties that may lose automatic free lunches if they no longer qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, in an op-ed with USA Today, said they are taking steps to restore integrity to SNAP and moving people towards self-sufficiency.

But community organizations like food pantries will be feeling the immediate effects.

"We are doing our best to feed hungry people and doing something with SNAP is just going to make more hungry people," said George Batten, the executive director of the Union Mission of Fairmont.

According to the Urban Institute report, over 38,000 people and over 23,000 households in West Virginia will be affected by these proposed changes.