TOLEDO, Ohio — Many working families in our area could be in danger of losing their SNAP benefits.

The USDA is considering more changes and it could significantly impact our community.

The proposal, if passed, would end what's called "Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility."

That allows states the discretion to determine whether or not a person, or in 87% of cases, a family can get SNAP benefits.

In Ohio, the program is granted to those that qualify for other assistance programs.

"Currently, there are a variety of services and supports that a family might apply for at Job and Family Services, and eligibility into some of those services just automatically qualifies them for SNAP, so that they simply are able to provide proof of being enrolled in a program or benefiting from a service, and then they have access to that additional food and those resources. If we move away from that, then families are going to have to really disclose all of those assets that they have, so that will be a barrier for some of those families that currently qualify . Moving forward they may not be eligible or qualify for those services," said Libby Schoen, the senior director of Community Impact for the United Way of Greater Toledo said. 

From the government's standpoint, that access could be a loophole to abuse the system.

Under the new rules, recipients will have to apply separately and provide ALL of their financial information, which for some can be difficult to get a hold of or to prove.

In some cases the threshold is set at a mere $3,500 including things like the value of a car.

"We don't want to discourage individuals who are struggling or working to improve their life, from having assets, from building a savings account, so that hopefully one day, they will no longer need to utilize SNAP," Lucas Stall, the manager of public affairs and advocacy for United Way of Greater Toledo said.

If this program is passed United Way nationwide statistics show 3.1 million Americans would lose SNAP benefits, and over half a million children will lose eligibility for free school lunch programs.

Locally, it means TPS lunch benefits so many students rely on, could stop.

Another concern is if SNAP benefits are restricted, food banks will be overrun with demand.

"SNAP is just an assistance program. It doesn't provide a household with all of the food that they need to feed themselves and to feed their families, and again, these are working individuals, these are folks who have jobs and are still struggling to make ends meet and being able to afford their basic needs," said Stall.

Restricting this program could be seen as a punishment for those seeking to work more hours or establish meager savings in order to become more financially stable and independent.

What that means is that many in our community who are working to escape poverty could lose a program that's helping them to do so.

The deadline to submit comment on this proposal is approaching and is due on September 23.

If you're interested in voicing you opinion, call 211 or you can access an online form, here.

According to United Way:

SNAP Supports Working Families

• The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s largest anti-hunger program and provides timely, targeted and temporary support to low-income households for the purchase of food.

• SNAP supplements the income of low-wage earners helping working families make ends meet and is carefully structured to encourage work.

• In 2017, about 42 million people accessed food through SNAP.

• About 87% of SNAP participants live in households with children, elderly individuals, or individuals with disabilities.

• SNAP helps families buy food, freeing up resources to pay for other basic needs to get by, which infuses additional dollars into the local economy.

Broad-Based Categorically Eligibility Helps Struggling Families

• Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) allows states to structure asset limit tests so that families, seniors and people with disabilities can maintain modest savings or own their own home, while continuing to combat food insecurity.

• Elimination of BBCE would overwhelmingly affect working families, children, seniors and people with disabilities – and would punish those seeking to work more hours or establish meager savings in order to become more financially stable and independent.

United Way Supports a Robust SNAP Program

• United Way is committed to preserving access to nutritious food, fighting hunger and supporting working families.

• SNAP makes food accessible to hungry families more cost-effectively and at a scale that no independent nonprofit can match.

• BBCE is an important pathway states use to enable participants to bypass the income eligibility and asset limitations for SNAP because they have already met eligibility requirements for other programs.

• States should be provided the continued flexibility they need in determining SNAP eligibility to adequately meet the food insecurity needs of working families in their communities.

• United Way opposes the elimination of broad-based categorical eligibility.