RALSTON - Children's advocates are hoping Nebraskans will weigh in on a proposal by the Trump administration that could kick more than 3 million people, including children, out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
If implemented, an estimated 265,000 children nationwide would no longer be automatically qualified for free school lunches.
The proposal also would take away state flexibility in administering SNAP.
Julia Tse, policy coordinator for economic stability and health with Voices for Children in Nebraska, says the proposal goes against the public assistance program's main purpose.
"Which is to help families become self-sufficient and to ensure that they can work towards a better future for their families, ensuring that folks don't suddenly lose the ability to make ends meet," she points out.
In Nebraska, families with assets up to $25,000 can qualify for SNAP benefits if they fall on hard times.
According to Tse, the proposed rule change would force families to choose between food assistance and spending down their savings to $3,500.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has called flexible eligibility provisions a loophole, and maintains removing them would save $2.5 billion.
Tse argues that helping families get back on their feet is a smarter investment, and notes removing state flexibility will actually cost taxpayers more d because of increased paperwork and administrative costs.
In 2017, SNAP helped 87,000 Nebraska children avoid missing meals, and helped lift 8,600 Nebraska families out of poverty.
Tse says families are working very hard, but a minimum-wage job just isn't enough to make ends meet.
"Until wages are enough to meet a family's basic needs, these public programs are really important in ensuring that children don't fall through the cracks," she states.
Tse says cutting off food assistance also would stress Nebraska's food pantries, which do not have the capacity to provide services at the scale of SNAP.
SNAP currently creates 12 meals for every one meal provided by food banks.
The Trump administration must consider all public comments on the rule before it can be finalized. Comments can be submitted online at regulations.gov until Sept. 23.