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The Trump administration is looking to tighten up automatic eligibility requirements for the food stamp program nationwide, which could ultimately cut off an estimated three million Americans from those benefits.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps or SNAP, currently has an automatic enrollment in the program for families who receive welfare benefits. The new proposal would effectively eliminate that enrollment process. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said there are 3.1 million people who are currently eligible for food stamps because of this link. Policy experts said the proposal is likely to increase food insecurity among needy families.

Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, almost immediately voiced their disapproval for this proposal that would affect nearly 60,000 Oregonians.

“Imagine going without dinner so your son or daughter can eat, or cutting out any fruits and vegetables because they’re too expensive,” Merkley said. “Thanks to the Trump administration, three million Americans will face those kinds of awful choices instead of imagining them. This proposal will literally take food off the tables of children, working families, seniors and people with disabilities.”

The rule would erase what U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue calls a ‘loophole’ in welfare benefits. Closing this ‘loophole’ would cut food-stamp spending by $2.5 billion per year, the Reuters news agency reported.

"For too long, this loophole has been used to effectively bypass important eligibility guidelines,” Perdue said in a statement. “Too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint."

Merkley and other policy experts argue that the proposal it will increase food insecurity among poor families and add to states' administrative costs.

“Less than two years ago, President Trump gave $2 trillion to the wealthiest individuals and most powerful corporations in this country—and now he’s telling Americans that we’re going to take food out of children’s mouths to save money?” Merkley said. “That’s not credible and not acceptable. In the wealthiest country on earth, we can afford to make sure that no child goes to bed hungry at night.

“I will keep fighting with everything I have to push back on destructive decisions like these and to make sure that every family in America can keep food on their tables each day.”

The rule, expected to be published in the Federal Register today, is open for public comment for 60 days.

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