“It will require almost every county to enforce the harsh time limit on providing nutrition assistance for adults who are working less than 20 hours each week, no matter how hard they are looking for a job, have irregular schedules, or are employed but unable to document their hours,” said Jessica Bartholow, policy advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty.”
The Trump administration published a rule today to cut SNAP benefits (food stamps) for hundreds of thousands of people who are out of work or under-employed. The government refers to these individuals as “able-bodied adults without dependents” or “ABAWDs.” The new rule circumvents the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill passed by Congress last December that rejected changes to SNAP ABAWD policy, a move which violates administrative law.
Western Center on Law & Poverty and our allies plan to fight the rule and protect our clients from the short and long-term harm of hunger that will result from its implementation.
Under existing law and guidance, people the government deems “ABAWDs” can only access food benefits for three months in a 36-month time period, but states have been given flexibility to waive the three-month time limit in counties and areas with insufficient jobs. The rule published by the Trump administration today removes these important protections which have been in place for over 20 years.
We are still analyzing the final rule, which is significantly different than the proposed rule, but we believe it will still result in unprecedented cuts to the country’s most successful anti-hunger program. There are approximately 700,000 Californians classified as ABAWDs who could be impacted by the rule. The USDA estimates the rule will cut over $5 billion in SNAP benefits to low-income Americans over the next five years.
The administration asserts that the rule will encourage people to work, but that notion is not grounded in fact. As Western Center advocates and many other experts have pointed out on numerous occasions, hunger does not make anyone productive. The physical and psychological toll of hunger is not a catalyst for work — it has the opposite effect. And while the USDA claims the rule will incentivize employment, it simultaneously targets people with well-documented barriers to work by undermining state flexibility to offer exemptions and waivers to the rule.
The Trump administration has not produced evidence to support this rule change, and it has not done due diligence to prove it will have the effect it claims. The administration will also try to divert attention away from SNAP cuts by highlighting the SNAP Employment and Training program for people who are out of work or underemployed; this is dishonest because people cut from SNAP can’t benefit equally from these services, and the USDA has not funded the program to serve even half of those who need it.
This is a blatant and alarming attempt to undermine Congress and ignore the policy preference of a broad, bipartisan swath of Americans, all to implement a cruel rule with dubious intentions. The administration suggests the change will restore the “dignity of work,” but there is nothing dignified about going to a job interview hungry, and nothing about the experience of hunger makes someone more employable.
Though the rule was published today, it does not go into effect until spring 2020, and once efforts to prevent its implementation are exhausted. This means that for now, impacted individuals should continue using benefits as normal.
It’s clear that this rule and other attempts by the administration to cut SNAP benefits were created by people who have never experienced the indignity of hunger. The integrity of the United States rests on the fundamental question of whether a country as wealthy as ours should allow people to go hungry, and if doing so helps them or our democracy be better. We firmly believe the answer is no.
Courtney McKinney, Director of Communications, [email protected]
Jessica Bartholow, Policy Advocate, [email protected]
On October 15, 2019, the USDA issued additional information about the number of children who would be cut from the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) as a result of the Administration’s Notice of Proposed Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Federal Register posted a new “Information Analysis” about the impact, stating: “The agency is extending the comment period to provide the public an opportunity to review and provide comment on this document as part of the rulemaking record.”
Nothing about the new information posted changes the fact that the proposed revision to SNAP regulations are deeply flawed and problematic, bypass congressional authority, and would increase hunger among low-income Californians.
Our full comments on the new information are available here.
If implemented, the third proposed SNAP rule change of 2019 could result in $4.5 billion in cuts to food assistance over five years
Anti-hunger advocates are once again preparing to respond to another round of proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as CalFresh in California.
Just one week after the public comment period closed for the second set of the Trump administration’s proposed rule changes to SNAP, which would take food away from approximately three million hungry Americans, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced another proposed rule change. The 60-day period to respond to this third proposed rule will end December 2nd.
SNAP, which is administered by the USDA, is recognized as the nation’s most important anti-hunger program. If enacted, these three rules combined are estimated to negatively impact over a million Californians, more than a quarter of the SNAP recipients in our state. What’s more, these proposed cuts to SNAP are among the dozens of other safety net cuts targeting low-income families proposed by the Trump administration this year alone.
“The Trump administration’s newest proposal will be touted as streamlining and standardizing, but no one should be fooled.” said Jessica Bartholow of the Western Center on Law & Poverty and chairperson of the Lifting Children Out of Poverty Task Force Safety-net Committee. “It’s simply another ploy to take food help away from people who turn to SNAP to prevent hunger. This is coming from a President who has never had to wonder where his next meal is coming from or worry about his kids going to bed hungry. It is disgraceful. I’m proud to know that the anti-hunger community and our allies will, once again, show up in force in opposition.”
Current law requires the SNAP program to recognize the utility expenses of each SNAP applicant household and adjust the benefits issued based on the Standard Utility Allowance (SUA) calculated by the State and approved in the State plan. The current policy allows variances in SUAs to accommodate for differences in utility costs and rates, and allows states flexibility in how they calculate those costs. The proposed changes would standardize those calculations across the country and set the SUA to an amount lower than what would be needed to meet the costs of utilities for many Californians. Nationwide, the proposed change is estimated to result in cuts to food assistance by $4.5 billion over a five-year period.
“It is unconscionable that for the third time this year, the Trump administration is proposing to cut vital food assistance for low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities,” said Jared Call of California Food Policy Advocates. “In the wealthiest country in the world, no one should have to go hungry or face the impossible choice between feeding their family and keeping their electricity on and home heated. CFPA and our anti-hunger partners are committed to working together to prevent cuts to SNAP and to insist that our national policy makers renew their commitment to end hunger and food insecurity.”
SNAP recipient households have uneven protections from hunger as a result of some states under-calculating the SUA; the only appropriate policy response is to bring those states up-to-par with other states by improving their SUAs. Instead, the administration is proposing a race-to-the-bottom solution by cutting SUAs and removing state flexibility, which will undermine our ability to help low-income Americans in every state prevent hunger and keep their electricity on at the same time. The USDA estimates that 20 percent of the national SNAP caseload will be impacted, though it is unknown what percentage of those impacted live in California.
“California food banks are on the frontlines of hunger and know first-hand the inhumane trade-offs that low-income families make between food and paying for basic needs like high utility bills,” said Andrew Cheyne, Director of Government Affairs for the California Association of Food Banks. “We’ve said it during every proposed cut to SNAP, and we’ll continue to raise awareness during this public comment period, that for every meal the charitable sector provides, SNAP delivers 12. Food banks and our partners cannot make up the difference: if this rule is enacted, people will go hungry just to keep cool during scorching summers and warm in winter.”
Leveling the SUA amounts across the country down rather than up, despite the well-documented fact that benefits for all recipients are currently inadequate, means fewer people will be able to afford the food they need to last them through the month. We urge the administration to abandon this proposal and instead join our organizations in supporting H.R.1368 (Adams, D-NC-12) to make SNAP benefits more responsive to our nation’s unacceptable levels of hunger, not less.
The previous two proposed administrative changes received a combined 200,000 comments from food banks, policy advocates, legal services, faith based organizations, unions, business leaders and government officials from across the country. The final rules for those proposals remain pending. Our organizations expect a similarly robust response to this harmful proposal and, if the barrage of comments in opposition to these proposed rules fail to discourage the administration from publishing detrimental final rules, we will take whatever next-steps are necessary to prevent hunger and protect the rights of low-income Californians.
For more information about our opposition to this proposed rule, contact us at:
Jessica Bartholow, Western Center on Law & Poverty
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (916) 282-5119
Jared Call, California Food Policy Advocates
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (510) 560-6485
Andrew Cheyne, California Association of Food Banks
Email: [email protected]
The comment period has ended for the USDA’s proposed rule to end a long-standing and widely used rule that eases the application and retention burden for families in need of food assistance. If implemented, the change could impact over 120,000 California households, most of whom are working, by making them newly ineligible for SNAP food assistance.
An excerpt from Western Center’s comments:
The Western Center on Law and Poverty is deeply concerned by attempts to restrict food assistance to the individuals whom we and our partners serve in California. We strongly support the twin goals of preventing hunger and supporting economic mobility, both of which are best achieved when states can account for high housing, child care and health care costs, and help SNAP participants save money to weather financial setbacks. We believe that the Administration’s proposed changes to categorical eligibility will work in opposition to these goals. If the proposed rule goes into effect, it will cause an estimated 250,000 to 345,800 Californians, who are already struggling to meet their basic needs, to lose their SNAP benefits. Hunger does not help anyone exit poverty and, in fact, has been proven to do the opposite: to leave children and adults alike to experience long and short-term consequences of poor nutrition that undermines their wellbeing and economic security. We respectfully request that the Administration consider the comments in our letter and the information in the attached appendices, and that the Administration withdrawal the proposed rule from consideration.
Western Center’s full comments can be read here.
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…
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