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Time running out to share opinions on SNAP changes

Community leaders join Congressman Joe Morelle to ask for public input on SNAP rule changes.
James Brown WXXI
Community leaders join Congressman Joe Morelle to ask for public input on SNAP rule changes.

With the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeking to change who is eligible for SNAP benefits, Congressman Joe Morelle is encouraging residents to get involved.

Secretary Sonny Perdue wants to remove a rule that allows states to ease the income requirements for SNAP applicants. He calls that rule a “loophole.” 

The rule change would affect 17,000 people in Monroe County alone, thousands more in surrounding counties and upward of 3 million nationwide. All those people would have to reapply to stay in the program that provides funds to purchase food.

There are less than three weeks left in the public comment period on the change, and Morelle on Tuesday visited Foodlink to urge residents to speak out against the cuts.

Morelle said many kids who receive free breakfast and lunch at school do so because their parent or guardian qualifies for SNAP. He says the move could spread hunger among kids.

“If you want the Rochester City School District to have better results, then you cannot do things like take away food and nutrition and lead to greater insecurities,” said Morelle.

Jerome Underwood, who leads Action for a Better Community, called the move immoral and bad policy. 

“It’s undeniable that the proposed changes would do a significant amount of harm to a large number of people,” Underwood said. “The people who can least afford to -- from a social, emotional and economic point of view -- to take on any more.

“Many of those same people who are having difficulties with homeownership and employment are the very same people who we’re talking about reducing these benefits for. So talk about tryin’ to kick somebody when they’re down.”

If Perdue goes forward with the changes, Morelle says hearings and drafting a law are the next logical next steps, but he expects there would be stiff opposition in the Senate and from the Trump administration.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.
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