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New food stamp rule proposal: How it affects you

Here is some key information about the government's proposal to restrict SNAP eligibility for as many as 3.1 million people.

ATLANTA — The government proposed new, stricter rules on Tuesday for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), popularly known as food stamps.

The new restrictions, if they go into effect, could affect thousands of Georgia families.

RELATED: Feds propose change to food stamps laws that would tighten eligibility

If you believe you’d be affected, here are some things to know:

  • The rules aren’t in place yet: Tuesday’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was just a proposal. A 60-day period for public comment will be open at www.regulations.gov where people can voice their opinions.
  • This might only affect you if you also use TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) programs: The proposed new standards target people who have been made automatically eligible for SNAP through their use of TANF programs. The government says too many people are added to the program through loose state-by-state eligibility guidelines.
  • If you weren’t automatically eligible for food stamps through TANF, this doesn’t affect you: The government said it’s looking to restrict the eligibility of about 3.1 million people, or 8 percent of SNAP recipients. That means most people on SNAP (92 percent) don’t have anything to be concerned about.
  • How you’re affected could depend on what state you live in: The government says states are making it too easy to get SNAP. If you live in a more restrictive state, chances are better that you already meet the proposed requirements. In Georgia, 70.7 percent of families were on both programs, according to the most recent data in 2017.
  • How much TANF assistance you receive could be the determining factor: The government said it wants to limit automatic SNAP eligibility to TANF families who have received a minimum of $50 a month for at least six months. The government says it is trying to limit cases where people can draw SNAP benefits thanks to TANF assistance as little as receiving an informational brochure.
  • It could also depend on the kind of assistance you receive: The government says that non-cash TANF benefits can also allow you to become SNAP eligible. It wants to restrict those kinds of benefits to only ones that “support work” like subsidized employment or childcare.

So should you be worried? It depends. The government has not said yet how it would notify people of their change in status or when it would take effect if the new rule is adopted.

It also hasn’t said, for instance, if people who have received $50 a month for the last six months would automatically qualify under the new standards, or if they would have to start over and wait six months to establish their eligibility again.

It’s possible there are cases where families are eligible for SNAP, but originally qualified for the program through their TANF eligibility, and would have to reapply for their food stamps.

In Georgia, you can contact the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) – the state agency that administers food stamps – for help clarifying your situation at 1-877-423-4746.

You can also review Georgia's state SNAP regulations here.