DENVER (AP) — A proposed federal rule could end food assistance for about 33,000 people in Colorado, including 11,000 children, a report said.
Potential regulation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture could terminate free or reduced-price lunches and lower the food stamp earnings limit by thousands of dollars, The Denver Post reports.
Colorado residents earning less than twice the poverty line are currently eligible for food assistance and free school lunches. The USDA proposal would limit the assistance to those at 130% of the poverty line.
The change effectively lowers the earnings cutoff from $51,500 a year to $33,475 for a family of four, and from $33,820 to $21,983 for a family of two, officials said.
The minimum wage needed to live comfortably in Denver is about $29 an hour, but some families making less would still not qualify for assistance, experts said.
A parent with one child who was working full-time for an hourly $11.10 wage would earn too much for free or reduced-price lunch, said Westminster Public Schools Chief Operating Officer James Duffy.
“If they make minimum wage or a little more, their (free or reduced lunch) benefits are substantially reduced but their overall ability to make ends meet is well below the living wage calculation for the area,” Duffy said.
The rule would make it difficult for families to end reliance on assistance programs because the state had more flexible asset limits than the proposed $3,500 federal limit, said Stephanie Perez-Carillo of the Colorado Children’s Campaign.
The Denver Public Schools nutrition department does not expect a large impact. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program recipients would still be eligible for free lunches, said spokesman Will Jones.