WASHINGTON — The Trump administration, brushing aside tens of thousands of protest letters, gave final approval on Wednesday to a rule that will remove nearly 700,000 people from the federal food-stamp program by strictly enforcing federal work requirements.
The rule, which was proposed by the Department of Agriculture in February, would make states enforce work requirements for able-bodied adults without children that governors have routinely been allowed to waive, especially for areas in economic distress. The economy has improved under the Trump administration, the department argued, and assistance to unemployed, able-bodied adults was no longer necessary in a strong job market.
“Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream,” Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary, said. “We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand.”
But anti-poverty groups said the administration’s focus on the unemployment rate was misleading.
“The overall unemployment rate is really a measure of the whole labor market and not people without a high school diploma who are incredibly poor and may lack transportation,” said Stacey Dean, the vice president of food assistance policy at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “We’re talking about a different group who just face a very different labor market.”