Mayors from 70 cities across the country spoke out against proposed cuts by the Trump administration to the federal food stamp program in a letter, raising concerns that the change will hurt children's health and local economies.
Wednesday's letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture comes a month after the Trump administration announced a rule change that could push 3.1 million recipients out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Under the proposal, the Department of Agriculture would stop providing benefits to families solely because they receive food assistance from state-run programs. USDA officials said the proposal can save money and "fix a loophole."
The mayors rejected the eligibility change, writing it will increase hunger for their most vulnerable citizens, including children, seniors and disabled people. About 85% of SNAP benefits go to households that include those populations, members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors wrote.
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For children in low-income households, the mayors said the change could take away healthy school meals they wouldn't otherwise be able to afford, hurting their development and academic performance.
Local and regional economies could also take a hit, the mayors said, because the USDA previously found public benefits increase economic activity.
"During times of economic downturn, every additional $5 dollars in SNAP benefits generates up to $9 dollars of economic activity, and every $1 billion increase in SNAP benefits results in 8,900 full-time equivalent jobs," the letter said, citing the department. "...We urge you to abandon this proposal."
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Recipients who lose their benefits under the rule change could reapply and qualify again, USDA officials said. The proposal could save billions in taxpayer funds, according to the department.
About 40 million Americans receive SNAP benefits.
The agency can't move forward with the proposed change until the 60-day comment period ends Sept. 23. More than 4,000 public comments have been submitted so far.
Contributing: Ledyard King, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Food stamp cuts will hurt kids, 70 mayors tell Trump administration