Trump administration to introduce plan cutting food stamps for 750,000 people

The Trump administration is set to announce a plan that would cut food stamp benefits for approximately 750,000 people, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday. 

The plan, which is scheduled to be announced Wednesday, will make it more difficult for states to gain waivers from a requirement that beneficiaries of food stamps work or are enrolled in a vocational training program, according to Bloomberg, which cited sources familiar with the matter.  

The work or vocational training requirement applies to recipients who are “able-bodied” or those who are not caring for a child under six years old. Under the current guidelines, states can receive a waver for work requirements for those receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or its former name, food stamps, if its unemployment rate is at least 20 percent above the national rate, according to Bloomberg.   

The national unemployment rate was 3.6 percent in October.

The regulation was initially proposed in February, and the administration predicted that the rule would end benefits for 750,000 people in its first year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that the move would save $1.1 billion in the first year and $7.9 billion over five years.

A person familiar with the measure confirmed to Bloomberg that the finalized regulation will have a similar impact. States seeking waivers under the rule would have to meet the stricter standards by April 1.

The Trump administration and GOP allies have long tried to reduce food stamp programs and implement federal restrictions. House Republicans tried to pass similar restrictions to the new rule last year, but the legislation was never passed in the Senate. 

The measure, which will be published in the Federal Register Thursday, is one of the three proposals that the Trump administration has backed. The administration has also sought to adapt “the types of government benefits that automatically qualify families for SNAP,”  according to a study from the Urban Institute. It has also called for changing the “approach to calculating standard utility allowances.”

The three programs together would limit food stamps for an estimated 3.7 million people and 2.1 million fewer households, according to the Urban Institute estimate. 

The Hill has reached out to the USDA for comment. 

[The Hill]

Trump admin delays funds for human-trafficking victims that would help non-citizens

 The Trump administration abruptly delayed a $13.5 million grant to house human trafficking victims just five days after saying that “non-citizens” could be served by the program.

The program’s funds, which were approved two years ago by multiple federal agencies, are now in limbo with no indication when money will be distributed and no public explanation for the change.

The money was intended to support housing and supportive services for victims of sex and labor trafficking, including immediate emergency shelter and short-term housing of up to 24 months, according to the notice of funding availability. The money could also be used for providing trafficking victims with furniture, child care services, trauma therapy, cell phones and household items.

The grants were to be dispersed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in collaboration with the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services. HUD hosted a webinar on August 22 through the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness for organizations interested in applying for the money, which the council described on August 13 as an “unprecedented partnership” between the DOJ and HUD.

On September 4, the funding announcement was updated to “allow recipients [of the funds] to serve non-citizens,” including lawful permanent residents and foreign national victims, the funding notice said.

Five days later, the grant solicitation was cancelled, according to the federal government’s grants.gov website, which currently states: “This Funding Opportunity has been CANCELLED and is NO longer accepting applications.”

A spokesperson for the Justice Department told NBC News the program has been “postponed,” not cancelled and that a separate HUD website describing the grant as “cancelled” is a mistake. DOJ has not explained why, but the agency asked for the funds back from HUD and the spokesperson says DOJ will now run the program itself.

HUD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, sent a letter to HUD and DOJ on Friday criticizing the administration for abruptly stopping the grant and asked the agencies to explain what had happened. “Survivors of trafficking must have access to safe and affordable housing,” wrote Brown, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. “A decision to postpone these housing and services grants into oblivion will be a decision to waste anti-trafficking resources already on the table.”

[NBC News]

Trump threatens San Francisco with EPA violation because of city’s homeless

President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to have the Environmental Protection Agency issue a “notice” to San Francisco over the city’s homeless issue, comments that were criticized by local officials.

From Air Force One, Trump, who had been in California for a two-day fundraising trip, blamed the homeless population for environmental issues. “There’s tremendous pollution being put into the ocean,” he said, noting “there are needles, there are other things.”

“We’re going to be giving San Francisco — they’re in total violation — we’re going to be giving them the notice very soon,” Trump said.

“The EPA is going to be putting out a notice and you know they’re in serious violation and this is environmental, very environmental,” Trump said. “And they have to clean it up. We can’t have our cities going to hell.”

In January, San Francisco found that under the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development definition, around 8,000 people were experiencing homelessness. That was a 17 percent increase over the 2017 “point-in-time” count, according to a 2019 homeless count and survey report. But the city and county of San Francisco uses an expanded definition, under which the homeless population is around 9,700, the report said.

The city has long struggled with problems of human waste and needles on the streets in the Tenderloin district, where many addicts and homeless people are found. The city set up public toilets and last year announced formation of a special six-person “poop patrol” team to clean up the human waste.

The city also announced funding to hire people to pick up used needles, the Associated Press reported. The city’s health department hands out an estimated 400,000 clean syringes a month under programs designed to reduce the risk of infections like HIV that can be transmitted to people who share needles, the news service reported.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed seemed to bristle at the president’s comments Wednesday evening. She tweeted: “If the President wants to talk about homelessness, we are committed to working on actual solutions.” She cited plans to add 1,000 shelter beds and said the city is working to pass a $600 million affordable housing bond to create badly needed housing.

“In San Francisco, we are focused on advancing solutions to meet the challenges on our streets, not throwing off ridiculous assertions as we board an airplane to leave the state,” the mayor said, according to NBC Bay Area.

Trump’s comments on homelessness in San Francisco and Los Angeles — there are almost 59,000 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people in Los Angeles County, according to a 2019 count — come as he has escalated feuds with the Golden State.

On Wednesday, the president announced that he would revoke the state’s waiver that allows it to set its own vehicle emissions standards, which the state’s attorney general and governor have vowed to fight in court.

Earlier this week Gov. Gavin Newsom in a letter signed by state and city officials called on the Trump administration to provide 50,000 more vouchers for rental subsidies and to increase the value of those vouchers to account for higher rent.

Newsom said in the letter dated Monday that state and local governments have increased their support for homeless programs, but “in contrast, your Administration proposed significant cuts to public housing and programs like the Community Development Block Grant.”

But Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson rejected the housing aid request in a letter Wednesday, saying that California’s policies on law enforcement, an overregulated housing market and sanctuary policies regarding people living in the country illegally have driven up housing costs while increasing demand.

“Your letter seeks more federal dollars for California from hardworking American taxpayers but fails to admit that your state and local policies have played a major role in creating the current crisis,” Carson wrote.

Carson said that nearly 500,000 California households already receive some kind of federal housing assistance and that “federal taxpayers are clearly doing their part to help solve the crisis.”

Courts have limited what cities can do to clean up homeless encampments, the AP reported.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to join an effort to get the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision that restricts efforts to bar homeless people from sleeping on sidewalks in Western states.

The board voted 3-2 to file a motion supporting Boise, Idaho, in its efforts to overturn a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said it was unconstitutional to arrest or otherwise sanction homeless people who sleep on sidewalks when there aren’t enough shelter beds.

[NBC News]