New Federal Rules Will Kick 33,000 Coloradans Off Food Assistance, Officials Estimate

Jul 26, 2019

On Tuesday, the Trump administration proposed changing how states determine who qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 3.1 million people would lose their benefits if the new rules take effect. In Colorado, state officials estimate the change would impact 33,514 residents, the majority of which are families with children.

Thanks to a two-decade-old policy, known as the “broad-based categorical eligibility” or BBCE, Colorado is one of 40 states that has been allowed to increase income and asset eligibility limits for food stamps.

The Trump administration calls this policy a “loophole” in that it gives benefits to people who wouldn’t qualify under the federal guidelines (130% of the federal poverty line, or an income of $2,252 per month for a family of three). In a statement, the USDA said it wants to prevent people from receiving food stamps who “clearly don’t need it.”

In Colorado, the income eligibility limit was increased last year to up to 200% of the federal poverty line, or about $42,000 annually for a family of three. Kate Kasper with Hunger Free Colorado said this helps low-income working families who struggle to make ends meet after paying the high costs of housing and childcare.

“These are people who are just at the poverty line,” she said. “With our high cost of housing, childcare, even utilities, (it’s) impossible for them to put food on their table.”

This flexibility in income eligibility also allows low-income people to build modest savings. And Kasper said it prevents what she calls the “benefits cliff.” Instead of cutting a family off from food aid the moment their gross income exceeds the limit, they can be slowly phased out of the program.

The Trump administration estimates that eliminating this policy will save around $2.5 billion a year. The final rule will be announced after the public comment period ends on Sept. 23.