Council 4 Members Dedicated to Protecting A Vital Lifeline

It’s hard to imagine nearly 700,000 Americans going hungry, but that’s the anticipated impact of a harsh rule change imposed by the Trump administration for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

In Connecticut, Council 4 members like Bill Seedman of AFSCME Local 714 (P-2 Social & Human Services) will see the damaging ripple effect that poor nutrition has on young people and families. And they’re justifiably sounding the alarm.

“We’re talking about food on the table. We’re talking about lifting people over the poverty line,” said Seedman, a public assistance consultant who helps administer the SNAP program for the state Department of Social Services (DSS).

Prior to the federal rule change, some eligible SNAP recipients were allowed to access up to three months of SNAP benefits in any three-year period if they were unemployed or were enrolled in a work or training program for at least 20 hours a week.

For the past two decades, states like Connecticut have been able to work around these limits by requesting waivers of the three-month limit in areas where there’s high unemployment or too few jobs.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “From the provision’s enactment in 1996 until now, both Democratic and Republican presidents alike have operated under a common set of criteria in granting waivers from the three-month cut-off. And Democratic and Republican governors alike have sought and secured these waivers.”

Because of these waivers, the most vulnerable Americans were able to stave off hunger.

Not any longer. Under the Trump administration’s rule change, it would be harder for states to receive these waivers, thereby jeopardizing food assistance for hundreds of thousands of Americans.

According to Seedman, approximately 25,800 Connecticut residents could lose benefits – and access to nutritious food – that are a vital part of the social and economic safety net.

“If you’re in the anti-hunger business, everyone recognizes that SNAP is the most effective tool to fight hunger,” added Emily Loveland, a Local 714 member who works as a public assistance consultant and is part of the DSS SNAP team. 

Ironically, AFSCME members nationwide receive SNAP benefits themselves. Whether they’re dedicated home care workers or custodians, or serve in other demanding yet historically low-paying jobs, AFSCME members represent the one in 10 American workers who receive SNAP benefits.

Seedman noted that he and his fellow DSS employees assist people in every municipality. “The [SNAP] rule change affects more than people who live in cities. Its impact will be felt throughout the state,” he said.

In comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers SNAP, AFSCME highlighted in greater detail how the rule change would harm SNAP recipients, including people who are between jobs or whose employers have cut their hours to less than 20 hours a week, and people with serious health conditions, yet not deemed disabled.

On Jan. 16, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong joined a group of 15 attorneys general and New York City in a lawsuit to stop the Trump administration from its plan to eliminate food assistance. The coalition is urging the court to declare the rule unlawful and issue an injunction to prevent it from taking effect.

“This proposal cruelly and unlawfully punishes the poor, and does absolutely nothing to improve job access. Tens of thousands of people in Connecticut alone will go hungry, with millions of dollars in cascading harm to the statewide economy,” Tong said. 

For union leaders like Local 714 President Jay Bartolomei, the battle over proposed SNAP cuts is a reminder that elections have consequences.

“It’s important for our members to be politically engaged,” said Bartolomei, a veteran eligibility services supervisor for DSS. “Whether it’s the president or our governor or our legislators, we need to make sure we elect candidates who support vital public services and workers’ rights.”