Congress spoke a year ago. Democrats and Republicans joined in approving a massive farm bill that included setting the funding and parameters of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps. On Tuesday, the Trump White House proposed changes in the assistance that break from the consensus. The administration wants to narrow eligibility. In doing so, it would deny food assistance to an estimated 3.1 million people, largely working families with children, seniors and those with disabilities.

Administration officials argue the program is vulnerable to abuse, assistance going to those who are not needy. Thus, it proposes to reduce the flexibility long granted states to expand eligibility in modest ways, say, in allowing assistance for those with incomes slightly above 130 percent of the federal poverty level or those with small levels of personal savings.

The administration forecasts the federal government saving $3 billion a year, or roughly $25 billion to $30 billion during the next decade.

Without question, federal officials have an obligation to do all they reasonably can to prevent fraud, and the past decade, the Agriculture Department has become more effective at identifying and halting such activity. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted last week, to receive food stamps, all households must apply and submit to interviews. They must document their monthly income and expenses. The process qualifies as rigorous.

The risk in narrowing eligibility as the administration proposes goes to families struggling to make ends meet landing in more difficult financial circumstances. A household income of 150 percent of the poverty level still is modest, at $31,995 for a family of three. Lose food assistance, and it becomes harder to cover the expense of such things as child care and decent housing. Unforeseen events, in the form of unexpected car repairs, medical needs or the sudden loss of a job, become a severe blow.

The administration proposal would result in children losing access to free lunches and breakfasts at schools. That puts learning in jeopardy, not to mention the opportunities a good education brings.

The proposal also means many households would be less likely to put aside small savings, opening the door to the accumulation of debt.

The flexibility permitted states in establishing eligibility recognizes the reality that there is nothing decisive in the poverty level. Inching above does not translate to financial security. Working families still face the challenge of juggling expenses, making tough choices about basic needs and in dealing with emergencies. Food stamps help to ease the burden, as those working in six of the 10 leading occupations in Ohio can testify.

One argument for the administration proposal cites the strong economy. The unemployment rate is an impressive 3.7 percent. The number of people receiving food assistance has declined from 47 million to 38 million the past six years. At the same time, the discouraging trend of stagnant wages for many working families persists. An achievement of the program the past decade is that more eligible households actually are getting the assistance.

This isn’t the first time the Trump White House has attempted to restrict access to food stamps. The administration joined House Republicans in seeking additional work requirements. It looked to block states from waiving requirements in areas with high unemployment. It did so as it won big tax reductions mostly to the benefit of wealthier households.

Fortunately, the congressional consensus in support of food assistance held firm, lawmakers from both sides alert to the difference the program makes for many families. Now the hope is that such thinking will continue to prevail, the administration falling short in its effort to get around Congress.