HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Tom Wolf warned Monday that food stamp benefits for about 200,000 people in Pennsylvania are jeopardized by a Trump administration move to stop allowing states to exceed federal income eligibility thresholds for the food-assistance program.
Such a change to the nation's food stamp program would primarily affect the elderly, the disabled and lower-income families in Pennsylvania who already struggle to put food on the table, the Democratic governor said in a statement.
It also could result in fewer school lunches that Pennsylvania schools provide in connection with the program, his administration said.
"Depriving people of the means for adequate sustenance and a healthier life is cruel and inhumane," Wolf said in the statement.
Now, in Pennsylvania, more than 1.7 million people are in the federally funded food stamp program, called the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP.
Most of them qualify under current federal guidelines that forbid people who make more than 130% of the federal poverty level — or about $32,000 a year total for a family of four — from qualifying for food stamp benefits.
But many states believe the cap is too restrictive.
Pennsylvania and 38 other states take advantage of a decade-old policy that allows states to make a broader pool of low-income workers and their families eligible for food stamps by automatically qualifying them if they receive a federally funded welfare benefit.
The Trump administration seeks to end that practice and is taking public comment during a 60-day period. Ending it potentially eliminates food stamps for more than 3 million of the nation's 36 million recipients.
In Pennsylvania, about 200,000 food-stamp recipients qualify under that expanded eligibility. The state allows them to be eligible for food stamps if they earn up to 160% of the federal poverty level, and a household can qualify at up to 200% if a member is 60 or older or deemed to be disabled.
To get around the federal income or asset limits, states use federal welfare grants to produce a flyer informing food stamp applicants about other available social services.
In Pennsylvania, the two-page color flyer lists more than a dozen state or federal benefit programs, a toll-free telephone number and a state website for more information. It typically distributes it at county welfare offices or mails it to people who apply for food stamps, state officials said.
Wolf administration officials say that families that lose food stamps earlier have a higher risk of falling back into poverty and returning to applying for benefits programs for help.
For someone with no income, food stamps provide the equivalent of up to $192 per month in food for one person, or $642 per month for a family of four.
Pennsylvania currently enforces no asset test for food stamp applicants.
Wolf administration officials said, however, that the state has enforced an asset test in the past and found that less than 1% of people who apply would be found in ineligible based on assets.