What is Circles USA’s Response to Potential Food Stamps Cut?

The Trump administration has proposed a new rule for the Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which could potentially eliminate eligibility for three million families. Circles USA’s Founder Scott Miller wrote this response. The administration is collecting feedback through this Monday, September 23; instructions for commenting can be found here. Our appreciation goes to the Circles Washtenaw Big View Team for their inspiring civic-engagement efforts.

The concept of mutual responsibility has always guided our poverty-reduction work at Circles USA. We inspire and equip individuals to take control of their lives and do whatever they can to become economically stable, no matter the external conditions. Likewise, we advise government and community-based program leaders to take responsibility for adding value to these individual efforts by building coherent systems to support and reward all those seeking economic stability.

We currently have a poverty management system that is not accountable to reducing poverty rates. (At best, it keeps people experiencing poverty safe.) While it is tempting to cut benefits to reduce a perceived “dependency,” this alone will not reduce poverty in our nation. We first need a poverty reduction system that is designed to support people out of poverty. Second, we need this new system to converge with the emerging economy, not an outdated notion of job creation. If we don’t generate enough quality jobs to overcome rapid changes in the use of automation, artificial intelligence, and global outsourcing, then we must create new jobs and reimagine the social safety net so that everyone has enough money to thrive.

Before we make cuts in our safety net, let’s first transform our programs to support people all of the way out of poverty and into economic stability. Let’s address the “Cliff Effect” that reduces benefits for basic needs faster than people can replace them with new earned income. Let’s make sure our local, state, and national economic-development programs are generating a robust economy that provides enough jobs, so people don’t need as much work-subsidy programs like food stamps. Once we have all these in place, we are better positioned to assess whether or not it is time to reduce programs like food stamps.