A proposed change to the federal food stamp program could see 77,000 Illinois residents lose benefits. According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking to tighten eligibility rules for the SNAP food benefits program. The USDA says the change would achieve consistency across the country and save the nation an estimated $2.5 billion a year.
The USDA’s proposed rule changes target a process called categorical eligibility. The USDA has said that some states have broadened the eligibility rules too much and wants to rein them in. The USDA is seeking to limit automatic SNAP eligibility to households that receive welfare benefits valued at more than 50 dollars a month for at least 6 months. Any Illinois residents who don’t hit that level would lose categorical eligibility and be subject to regular federal income and assets limits, according to the Tribune report. The federal limit is 130% of the federal poverty line, which for a family of three’s gross earnings would be $27,779 a year.
According to the USDA, about 3.1 million people would no longer be eligible for SNAP under the new rules. According to 2016 data from the USDA, the Tribune reported that about 8.6% of Illinois households receiving food stamps would not meet the threshold and be cut off. As of April, Illinois has an estimated 900,000 households on SNAP benefits. The change in regulations could also result in children in these households losing free school lunches – or according to data about 265,000 school children would no longer receive free lunch at school, a program they automatically qualify for under SNAP’s current rules.
Illinois officials say the changes would further delay SNAP benefit processing in the state. Currently, the Federal government has the state under an action plan due to its lengthy delays in processing SNAP benefits applications. Illinois Department of Human Services officials say the new changes would further exacerbate the wait times.