OLYMPIA — Roughly 75,500 Washingtonians in King, Snohomish and two dozen other counties are expected to lose benefits under a new Trump administration rule cutting back the federal food-stamps program, according to the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).
Announced on Wednesday, the rule restricts exemptions that currently allow some work-eligible adults to get benefits even if they don’t have steady employment. Under the new plan, states can only give waivers if a city or county has an unemployment rate of 6% or higher.
The change is expected to save roughly $5.5 billion over five years and reduce benefits for roughly 688,000 recipients nationwide for what’s known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Beginning April 1, those 75,500 state residents who have the waiver now — and receive an average $210 per month — could see their entire benefit eliminated, according to DSHS. Of all people in the state currently receiving those waivers, more than 43% experience homelessness and almost 60% have behavioral or physical-health issues.
DSHS said 26 counties will experience the cuts: Adams, Asotin, Benton, Chelan, Clark, Columbia, Cowlitz, Douglas, Franklin, Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Skamania, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, Walla Walla, Whatcom and Whitman.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said the plan would help people move “from welfare to work.”
Calling it “misguided and harmful,” Gov. Jay Inslee in March wrote Perdue in strong opposition to the new rule.
In a statement Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., also criticized the rule, saying, “It’s hard to see this as anything but the President being cruel for cruelty’s sake.”
In Washington, more than 920,000 people rely on the food-stamp program, according to Inslee’s letter.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.