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Fact Check: Adams Mostly Right About Trump Plans For SNAP Cuts

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The Trump administration has made a number of proposals that would cut the number of people who receive food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, a Democrat who represents the Charlotte area, drew attention last month to one of those proposals. 

Adams tweeted that Trump "wants to cut 3 million people from SNAP, including children, seniors and veterans."

Paul Specht of WRAL joins WFAE "Morning Edition" host Lisa Worf to assess Adams' claims.

Lisa Worf: So, first off, what's this proposal Rep. Adams is alluding to?

Paul Specht: It's a little complicated, but bear with me. The Trump administration wants to change something called categorical eligibility. And basically what that means is in some states across the country, if you sign up for one social program, you get entered into SNAP automatically. That's not true in every state, but some states allow that.

Worf: What about North Carolina?

Specht: I don't believe that is the case here. We didn't find many people in our state that would be affected, but, just generally speaking, there are states that sign up a lot of people to SNAP automatically if they're enrolled in a different social program. The Trump administration believes that's a loophole that needs to be closed. Their argument is just because you qualify for one social program doesn't mean that you should automatically get benefits for another, and so that's what led them to this change to end the way that categorical eligibility is granted.

Worf: Why do states grant this eligibility if people are already receiving assistance through another program?

Specht: This specifically is in regard to food, and so it's possible someone signs up for some other financial assistance or something like that. And then if you look at someone's money one way — and there are many ways to look at people's money, you know, whether it's cash in the bank or assets or things like that. You look at that and then you say some states might say, "Oh, well, you don't have enough money to provide. You could use some assistance just for nutritional needs" and sign them up that way. From what I understand reading about it, that's how it works.

Worf: So, is it true that 3.1 mil­lion people would get their food stamps cut, then?

Specht: According to the USDA, yes. That's their own number of people that would be affected: 3.1 million.

Worf: And does that indeed include seniors, children and veterans, as Rep. Adams has said?

Alma Adams
U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. Rep. Alma Adams

Specht: Children, yes. Seniors, yes — and maybe veterans. Here's what I mean by that: when we reached out to the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, they gave us the number of households that would be affected, and that's how they track it — not always individuals but households. The USDA told us that close to 700,000 households with seniors would be affected and then close to 600,000 households with children would be affected. And by that, I mean they would lose benefits, according to the USDA's communications office. But it's unclear how many veterans would be affected because the USDA doesn't track that demographic as closely as it tracks children and seniors and low income and disabled people.

Worf: So, how so determine the number of veterans or get a better idea of that?

Specht: That's a good question. There's not a lot of data out there, but there is one group called the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and they're a liberal group, but they've attempted to track this information. In 2018, they found that 1.4 million veterans benefit from these food stamps.

Worf: And this is a whole program all together?

Specht: Correct. This is the whole program altogether. And, so, there's reason to believe that veterans might be affected because there are so many of them that do receive benefits, but there's no conclusive evidence to show that they would directly lose these benefits.

Worf: Back to that number as far as the households with seniors and the households with children: Does that mean that those together 1.3 million households could represent something close to 3 million people cut from the program?

Specht: Right. Those numbers don't include just middle aged people, if you will, the people in the middle who are low income or disabled and who qualify.

Worf: OK. So we're looking at, though, with those 1.3 million households, a number that's much bigger than the 1.3 million itself.

Specht: Right.

Worf: So, what's your verdict on Adams' claim?

Specht: You know, she got most of it right — the 3 million people being cut from SNAP, the fact that it would affect children and seniors. Her claim that it would affect veterans is sort of a reach, but there's reason to believe it would affect at least a few veterans, and so we rated her claim mostly true.