An applicant signs up for food stamps
An applicant signs up for food stamps, known as CalFresh in California, at a low-income health clinic in Contra Costa County. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Senate President Toni G. Atkins warned Wednesday that a tightening of work rules by the Trump administration could end food assistance for 700,000 people in California.

The new rules, which take effect April 1, affect adults who are childless and not disabled. Under current rules, these people must work 20 hours a week for more than three months over a 36-month period to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.

California and other states have been able to create waivers to this rule for areas that face high unemployment, but the new Trump policy will end that.

“Today’s announcement by the Trump Administration to cut food assistance benefits to as many as 700,000 Californians is cruel and inhumane,” said Atkins. “The proposed rule ignores the local needs of Californians and removes state flexibility currently allowed under existing law and guidance as it relates to able-bodied adults.”

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the rule change was prompted by a buoyant economy that needs more workers.

“Now, in the midst of the strongest economy in a generation, we need everyone who can work, to work,” he said. “This rule lays the groundwork for the expectation that able-bodied Americans re-enter the workforce where there are currently more job openings than people to fill them.”

But Atkins, a Democrat who represents the San Diego area, said the rule change will simply exacerbate hunger and homelessness.

“The outcome of this reckless decision will make it harder for adults on the brink of homeless to get the food they need and is the latest in a series of federal decisions to limit access to food for impoverished families across America,” she said. “The only result of such a decision is that more Americans will go hungry.”

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.