(CNN) - Many among the poorest of the poor could be denied food stamps under a White House proposal that would limit the states’ ability to waive an employment requirement for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
According to the Department of Agriculture, more than 750,000 people could lose their benefits under the Trump administration’s change to SNAP, the program that gives low income people financial assistance to buy food.
Researcher Karen Cunnyngham told a House subcommittee Wednesday that the proposal would hit very poor Americans especially hard. Those people make on average about $557 per month, which is 43 percent of the poverty level.
Eleven percent of them have jobs but don’t work enough to satisfy the White House’s proposed requirement, according to Cunnyngham.
Currently, all non-disabled, working-age adults without dependents must have jobs or be in training programs to receive SNAP benefits. Otherwise, they can only get benefits for three out of every 36 months.
Waivers are available for people with disabilities and those who live in an area with high unemployment.
In keeping with its push to add work requirements to safety net programs, the Trump administration’s proposal would tighten the definition of areas where there are insufficient jobs. The area’s unemployment must also be at least 7 percent.
Several experts told members of the House Agriculture subcommittee that requiring people to work would not lead to them gaining employment.
"Those subject to the time limit have profound barriers to employment," said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.
The association found that one in three clients reported they have a physical or mental limitation, one-third did not finish high school or have a GED and more than half don't have reliable transportation.
Republicans pushed back, saying that employment helps people move out of poverty.
"Work has dignity. Work is opportunity. Work is not a dirty word," said Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota, the nutrition subcommittee's ranking member. "Able-bodied adults cannot be kept on the sidelines while we witness historically low unemployment and a record-high seven million open jobs."
The White House’s proposal was first announced in December on the same day the president signed a farm bill that had a similar provision that was eventually eliminated.