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PROPOSED FOOD STAMP ROLL-BACK TO AFFECT A QUARTER MILLION CALIFORNIANS

Roughly a quarter-million Californians might not qualify for food stamps under a new proposal by the Trump administration, opponents of the proposal said the move will affect families who already struggle financially.

…Jessica Bartholow is the lead Anti-Hunger Policy Advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, she said about 250,000 Californians will lose their Cal Fresh assistance.

“They will experience hunger,” Bartholow said. “The most recent proposal by the Trump administration would make the program more difficult to reach people who are working, people who have children in their household.”

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How Will Tightening Eligibility Standards For Food Stamps Affect Californians?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a new proposal that would change SNAP eligibility requirements — and some argue that it may have an outsized impact on Californians…

GUESTS:

Angela Rachidi, research fellow in poverty studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) whose expertise includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs

Jessica Bartholow, policy advocate for the LA-based Western Center on Law and Poverty, an advocacy organization for low income Californians; chair of the California Asset Building Coalition, a non-profit that aims to help Californians achieve economic self-sufficiency

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“We’re not going to be able to survive:” Why Californians could bear the brunt of Trump food stamp cuts

A Trump administration proposal would cut food stamps to 3.1 million Americans—largely working families with high housing, childcare and medical costs. That could hit hard in California, a state where both the cost of living and the minimum wage are on the rise.

…“It’s clear that states like California are a target on this,” said Jessica Bartholow, a policy advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

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If the U.S. economy is strong, why is the Trump Administration proposing to let people go hungry?

By Jessica Bartholow, Western Center Policy Advocate 

In the Trump Administration’s efforts to scale back the federal safety net, it has proposed new work requirement rules for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) in need of SNAP food assistance – an estimated three million Americans.

For low-income individuals, both those who work and those who don’t or can’t, SNAP offers an essential support for preventing hunger. People looking for work need access to food, because unsurprisingly, hunger undermines employment goals.

At Western Center on Law & Poverty, we advocate for the health and dignity of people in poverty, and we see the proposed ABAWD rule as a hardhearted and misguided manipulation of welfare reform. In an economy as strong as the President claims, allowing people to go hungry is immoral and short-sighted.

Congress created a time limit in the Food Stamp Program, now known as SNAP, in 1996 for unemployed, underemployed, and job-seeking childless adults — deemed ABAWDs. Unless exempt due to disability or pregnancy, ABAWDs are limited to receiving food benefits for three months out of any 36-month period unless they satisfy a 20 hours-per-week work requirement.

In the time since 1996, the USDA approved California’s requests to waive ABAWD time-limits, but that changed last year. The statewide waiver of the ABAWD time limit expired on August 31, 2018, with all counties except San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo receiving area waivers until August 31, 2019. The intent of the original 1996 regulations, and the reason California received waivers in the two decades since, is to protect people from hunger.

Many Californians struggle with unemployment, underemployment, and low-wages, and as a result, are forced to rely on public safety net programs. ABAWDs may be able to find low-paying service jobs, but those jobs are increasingly part-time and lack fair scheduling, making it difficult to guarantee 20 hours a week on a regular basis. That kind of involuntary part-time work has doubled between 2007 and 2012 — 43 percent of part-time workers say they wish they were given more hours.

The proposed ABAWD rule also ignores the fact that numerous ABAWDS are classified as such by a slim margin. Many struggle to hold work because of circumstances beyond their control – undiagnosed mental and physical health barriers, inaccessible job markets, and unstable living conditions.

While the time limit includes protections for people with disabilities, proving that one is unfit for work is difficult. States are not obligated to help individuals find providers to diagnose or treat impairments, which means those with significant illnesses risk being unable to comply with verification rules.

Western Center joined the California Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services in calling for the complete repeal of the ABAWD rule. If the rule isn’t repealed, lawmakers should, at minimum, protect long-established waivers that prevent hunger for people in communities impacted by high unemployment and underemployment.

California’s temporary ability to exempt individuals from the ABAWD rule is important, but it’s insufficient. We cannot afford to weaken protections from the ABAWD time limit, especially since there is no evidence that it will result in people working more. Additionally, the proposed rule directly undermines legislative intent; negotiations for the 2018 Farm Bill included a consideration for work requirements, but those requirements were left out.

The comment period for the proposed rule came to a close this week — it was extended after Western Center brought attention to errors in the submission system. We submitted comments encouraging the USDA to abandon the proposed rule change for the ABAWD time limit, but ultimately, we are working for the elimination of the time limit altogether to ensure that every American who wants to work can, and that no one goes hungry due to lack of a job.

 

Want to Eradicate Hunger in America? Take on Racism.

With more than 40 million people in the country struggling with hunger, anti-hunger advocates in the United States have their work cut out for them. In 2017, nearly 12 percent of all US households were food insecure—meaning they didn’t have access to enough food for all household members to lead active, healthy lives. Food insecurity is stratified across racial lines, affecting less than 9 percent of white households in America, but nearly 22 percent of black households and 18 percent of Latinx households.

…Jessica Bartholow, a poverty-and-hunger advocate with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, agrees that national hunger organizations need to bring a robust racial analysis to their work, particularly with regard to how racist and oppressive systems are impacting efforts to end hunger among people of color. “If you’re not asking how race impacts outcomes in 2019, then you missed something really important about this country,” she said. “We can have the best school-meal program in the world, but if black girls are getting pushed out of school due to racism, they’re not going to get that meal anyway.”

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