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Proposed federal SNAP changes could impact food banks

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Posted at 1:04 PM, Aug 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-27 15:04:41-04

CLEVELAND — In boxes and bags on pallets and shelves are the meals that the Greater Cleveland Food Bank can provide. It is a massive operation and for every meal that places like the food bank can provide -- the SNAP program provides.

Three million people could lose SNAP benefits - formerly known as food stamps - if the USDA has its way. A proposed rule change the agency is considering centers around what's called broad based categorical eligibility.

The term is a mouthful but Kimberly Lovano -- the director of advocacy at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank - says it boils down to two things: income and assets.

“Broad-based categorical eligibility is an option that states can use in order to adjust income guidelines and adjust asset limits," she said.

People are eligible for SNAP benefits if they meet the federal poverty level guidelines -- about $27,000 a year for a family of three. But dozens of states don't place a limit on assets -- which include things like a savings account.

" If a household is saving -- even if it is just a few dollars a paycheck -- and they get above a certain amount, getting rid of the broad-based categorical eligibility option would mean households would be removed from the program just for having a modest savings," Lovano explained.

Proponents of the rule change say it closes a loophole that states have exploited and used to give SNAP benefits to those who don't qualify under the federal government's guidelines.

Lovano says that if passed, the rule change might actually de-incentivize people to save money and get off the SNAP program.

"The average amount of money that someone has in their savings account that is on SNAP is about $375. Getting folks to be able to save a little bit more paycheck by paycheck, I wouldn't say that's creating a loophole. It's giving people a path to financial security," Lovano concluded.