Last week, the Trump administration finalized a proposed rule that will severely restrict the ability of hundreds of thousands of individuals to access Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, otherwise known as “food stamps.” This new policy, which is set to be implemented in April 2020, will limit the ability of recipients to become exempt from SNAP’s work reporting requirement even if they live in an area with a lack of sufficient jobs or high unemployment.

The new rule is expected to cause almost 700,000 individuals to lose access to critical food supports. As health care advocates, we’re disheartened and concerned about the impact this rule will have on the health and well-being of individuals and families. Access to SNAP benefits allows individuals to stay healthy by helping them maintain reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. When individuals and families have this type of access, they’re less likely to develop long-term health problems such as obesity and heart disease, as well as depression and anxiety that can result from toxic stress caused by food insecurity. Reliable access to affordable, nutritious food also helps children graduate from school as well as find and maintain employment as adults. Unfortunately, SNAP’s work reporting requirement only stands as a barrier between individuals, families and the critical food supports they need.

The administration’s strong support of work reporting requirements comes as no surprise, as they have been speedily approving state requests to impose work reporting requirements in their Medicaid programs. Their position is becoming increasingly harder to justify, though, since there has been continually mounting evidence that work reporting requirements simply don’t work. They don’t help individuals find or maintain employment, they are excessively expensive for states to administer, and they cause individuals to lose access to the critical benefits they need, which only makes it more difficult for them to stay healthy and be able to work.

By harshly limiting the ability of individuals and families to access SNAP benefits during periods of economic downturns and unemployment, the administration will worsen health and increase poverty and hunger across the country. What’s more, the administration is also defying Congress, who chose to keep the SNAP program the way it is and not make any of the administration’s harmful changes when it passed the 2018 Farm Bill. Thankfully, health care and anti-hunger advocates will rise to the occasion and work together to protect the communities they serve against this deeply flawed and ill-conceived policy.