The Agriculture Department proposed budget cuts which would slash $4.5 billion of spending on food stamps over five years. The cut would affect 19 percent of families who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), trimming their benefits by as much as $75 per month.

The proposal would increase benefits for 16 percent of users, but would force nearly 8,000 families to give up their benefits. Currently, just under 40 million Americans rely on SNAP for their nutritional needs.

Under this plan, the average loss in benefits would be $31 a month, and the average gain would be $13 a month. However, households could lose as much as $75 each month or gain up to $33.

“This latest proposal would take 568 million meals per year from the tables of families who need food assistance, forcing families struggling with hunger to choose between heating or cooling their homes and putting food on the table,” Kate Leone, the chief government relations officer at the advocacy group Feeding America, said in a statement.

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The new rule would change the way utility costs, such as heating and cooling, are calculated. The cuts would primarily affect cold northern states where heating costs are high. Officials claim that the change would “improve program integrity.”

States have estimated how much their residents spend on utilities each month since the 1970s, but the new proposal would allow the Agriculture Department to set a fixed allowance for each state based on its average utility costs.

Critics believe the change would disproportionately affect low-income households in colder states where the cost of energy is especially expensive.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) criticized the proposal, as his state would be one of the ones most affected.

“The Trump administration has come up with yet another rotten scheme to attack working families and undermine opportunity for millions of Americans,” McGovern said in a statement. “Though a benefit cut of $50 per household might not sound like a whole lot, it could literally mean the difference between food on the table and going to bed hungry for hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts families.”

This proposal is the third time that the Trump administration has sought to cut food stamps. Previously, the Agriculture Department tried to place more stringent work requirements on the program. In July, the administration proposed a change that would cause three million people to lose their benefits. Final rules on both of those proposals are expected soon.

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