WASHINGTON (CBS Local) — Nearly a million children could lose their automatic eligibility for free school lunches under proposed changes to the food-stamp program by the Trump administration.

As many as 982,000 children would no longer be automatically eligible for free school meals, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis released Tuesday. That’s double the agency’s initial estimate.

About half of those children would have to pay a reduced price of 40 cents for school lunch and 30 cents for breakfast. Around 40,000 would need to pay the full price, which varies depending on the district.

The rest of those children — some 445,000 — would still be eligible for free meals, but their families would have to apply to qualify.

“Even for those who remain eligible, forcing low-income families to navigate the burdensome paperwork will inevitably lead to eligible children losing access to a critical source of daily nutrition,” Rep. Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat, said Wednesday ahead of a hearing on the issue.

The proposed rule, unveiled in July, curtails a policy which makes it easier for Americans with somewhat higher incomes and more savings to receive food stamps. It could strip more than three million people of their benefits, according to the Agriculture Department’s estimates.

Republicans have long characterized the expanded eligibility option as a “loophole” that lets those with higher incomes and assets get public assistance.

Consumer advocates, however, say that the option helps low-income working Americans get the help they need.

Comments