The proposed changes to SNAP will affect poor people who are unable to afford to purchase the food their families needs. It will take away access to food for “able-bodied adults” who are childless. It will also throw children off the free (or reduced) lunch program. In short – cutting food stamps will result in food insecurity and starvation.
This blog contains a timeline of what happened after the Trump administration announced it was making drastic cuts to the SNAP program. Those cuts will begin on April 1, 2020 – unless someone finds a way to stop this from happening.
Manifesting alarm over the USDA’s plan to reorganize its statistical and research agencies, 56 former USDA, and federal statistical agency officials, including former deputy and undersecretaries, have written to Congress to warn of the likely damage to US agriculture and farming and to urge the proposed plans be abandoned.
“I urge the administration to seriously consider the concerns of many stakeholders who place high value on the data, research and other intelligence provided by the Economic Research Service (ERS) and avoid actions that threaten the long-term viability of the agency or its near-term productivity,” said John Lee, ERS administrator under Ronald Regan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
“USDA’s justification for this upheaval of evidence-based policymaking is completely lacking,” said Katherine Smith Evans, ERS administrator under George W. Bush and Barack Obama…
…USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced in August that the department’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and ERS would be moved out of Washington DC, to save money and be closer to the agricultural community. The USDA also said the move would help tackle the ERS’s poor job retention rate, which was significantly higher than the USDA as a whole.
The American Statistical Association noted the USDA’s numbers on ERS were inflated by using summer interns, who all leave after their internships. Far from helping the ERS retain employees, the move is likely to create a brain drain, as economists and stateticians elect to either retire or keep their families in their homes and schools…
…Moving the agencies outside of Washington would also make collaborating with other federal agencies and advising Congress more difficult. The ERS’s “research agenda rises largely from the activities of every agency of USDA,” said John A. Schnittker, undersecretary and deputy secretary for USDA in the Lyndon Johnson administration. “And its research results are directly applicable to the food and agricultural policies debated and adopted by Congress. tHe Economic Research Service should remain in Washington…
October 10, 2018: BuzzFeed News posted an article titled: “Childhood Hunger And Poverty Statistics Are Under Threat From the Trump Administration, Experts Warn”. It was written by Dan Vergano. From the article:
Hunger, poverty, and nutrition statistics in the US might wither away, experts warn, if the Trump administration is successful in its proposal to relocate a key statistics office from Washington, DC, to the Midwest.
The USDA is a $150 billion agency, and the Economic Research Service regularly churns out statistics not only on the prices of foodstuff, but for decades has also looked at childhood hunger, farmworkers, free trade, obesity, and poverty-related statistics.
On Wednesday, 56 former officials at the US Department of Agriculture called for Congress to stymie agency chief Sonny Perdue’s announcement that he was relocating the Economic Research Service, the federal government’s lead producer of hunger and poverty statistics, and putting it in his office. The move would also relocate the agency’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Perdue said the move of more than 600 personnel will “make more logical sense or provide more streamlined and efficient services.” Critics say the proposal will hobble the office, lead to an exodous of experts, and politicize its reporting on subjects such as food stamps, poverty, and hunger…
…Perdue’s announcment also said he was moving the office away from Washington, DC, “to attract and retain highly qualified staff with training and interests in agriculture, many of whom coem from land-grant universities,” as well as to cut costs and place its economists and statiticians closer to farms. Lawmakers from states such as North Dakota, and Kansas have offered to host the offices…
…”There is not anyone else who does the kind of work done by these experts,” Offutt said, predicting economists and statatisticians would simple take jobs an the numerous universities and nonprofits that litter Washington, DC, rather than relocate to the heartland, leaving ERS bereft of expertise. “You really have to ask: What are they trying to accomplish here?”…
October 3, 2019: The Trump Administration posted the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Standardization of State Heating and Cooling Standard Utility Allowances” on regulations.gov. Here are some key parts of the proposed rule:
The proposed rule would revised Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) regulations to standardize the methodology for calculating standard utility allowances (SUAs or standards). The new methodology would set the largest standard utility allowance (HCSUA), at the 80th percentile of low-income households’ utility costs in the State. Standard allowances for other utiluty costs would subsequently be capped at a percentage of the HCSUA with the exception of an updated telecommunications SUA that would be a standard amount set nationally. These figures would continue to be updated annually and reflective of utility costs in each State…
…The Department is concerned that the degree of flexibility in current regulations causes inequities from State to State. The 2017 SUA Study revealed that many States’ SUAs are overinflated, which leads to additional benefits, and some States’ SUAs underestimate how much households actually pay in utilities, resulting in lower benefits. The Department believes that standardizing SUA methodology would make SUAs and the program more equitable. Removing the inequities related to this deduction will also improve integrity by ensuring SUAs better reflect what low-income households are actually paying for utilities so that eligible households receive SNAP benefit amounts which more accurately reflect their circumstances, no matter the State in which they reside…
…The proposed rule would eliminate the State option to vary allowances by household size and geographic areas as part of the Department’s efforts to bring greater equity across States and in recognition of the low number of States taking these options…
…The new telecommunications standard would be available to households with utility costs for one telephone, basic internet service, or both. Households with basic internet and/or telephone costs would be able to either receive telecommunications standard or have their actual costs counted, but actual costs would be limited up to the amount of the telecommunications standard. For example, households with more than basic internet packages, such as those combined with cable television service, would not have the cost of their entire package counted…
…The proposed rule would not have an impact on small entities because it primarily impacts SNAP households. Small entities, such as smaller SNAP-authorized retailers, would no be subject to the new requirement. On average, SNAP retailers would likely see a drop in the amount of SNAP benefits redeemed at stores if these provisions were finalized, but the impacts on small retailers are not expected to be disproportionate to the impacts on large entities. As of FY 2017, approximately 76 percent of authorized SNAP retailers (about 200,000 retailers) were small groceries, convenience stores, combination grocery stores, and specialty stores, store types that are likely to fall under the Small Business Administration gross sales threshold to qualify as a small business for Federal Government programs. While these stores make up most authorized retailers, collectively they redeem less than 15 percent of all SNAP benefits…
The proposed rule is expected to reduce SNAP benefit payments by about $1 billion per year in net. However, not all states will see benefit losses; in some States HCSUAs will increase under the proposed rule, resulting in larger SNAP benefits for many households. In total, 29 states are expected to see a loss of SNAP benefits (about $1.54 billion annually) and 22 are expected to see a net gain (about $540 million annually). Based on USDA data, about 53 percent of stores would likely see lower redemptions and 47 percent would likely see increased redemptions..
November 2019: The Urban Institute posted a study titled: “Estimated Effect of Recent Proposed Changes to SNAP Regulations”. Here are some key points from the study:
…If the proposed regulations had been implemented last year, 3.7 million fewer people and 2.1 million fewer households would have received SNAP in an average month; annual benefits would have decreased by $4.2 billion. An estimated 2.2 million participating households would no longer be eligible for SNAP and would lose an average of $127 in monthly benefits; 3.1 million others would receive an average of $37 less in benefits a month. But some households would see benefits increase under the proposed regulations: about 2.5 million participating households would receive an average of $14 more a month, and 67,000 households would begin participating because of the higher standard utility agreements (SUAs) in some states.
The Proposed Changes, and the USDA’s Estimates:
- Tightening the criteria by which states request time limit waivers for able-bodied adults without dependents, or ABAWDs. People subject to ABAWD time limits can participate in SNAP for only three months in a 36-month period unless they meet specific work requirements. States can request waivers from time limits for areas with high unemployment. The proposed regulations would restrict the criteria used to request a waiver. According to USDA estimates, this change would cause 755,000 ABAWDs to lose eligibility in 2020 and reduce the amount spent on SNAP benefits by 2.5 percent.
- Restricting states’ ability to make families “categorically eligible” for SNAP based on the receipt of another government benefit. The proposed policy would end states’ ability to use broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE) to waive asset tests and to raise gross income eligibility limits from 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (FPG) to as much as 200 percent of FPG. According to USDA estimates, this change would render about 9 percent of SNAP households ineligible and reduce the amount spent by 5 percent. The loss of SNAP would also cause 982,000 students to lose their automatic eligibility for free meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP). To remain eligible, these students would need to apply for the NSLP and SPB based on their income.
- Creating a uniform approach to setting standard utility allowances (SUAs) and converting the telephone allowance to a telecommunication allowance that includes basic internet service. Both allowances factor in the excess shelter expense deduction, which is used to computer net income (which, in turn, is used determine eligibility and benefit level). The changes would have varying effects across states; allowances would rise in some states and fall in others. According to USDA estimates, benefits would rise for 16 percent of households and fall for 19 percent, with little lost of eligibility.
The three proposed regulatory changes would have differing effects on various groups of SNAP participants,
- Sixteen percent of households with no children, no adults age 60 or older, and no one with a disability would lose eligibility under the proposed changes to the ABAWD regulations.
- Nearly 12 percent of households with an adult age 60 or older would lose eligibility under the proposed changes to broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE).
- Households that include someone age 60 or older or someone with a disability are most likely to be affected by the proposed changes to the SUAs, although a larger absolute number of households with children would be affected than for either of these groups.
- Non-Hispanic white and Asian households would be somewhat more likely than other racial and ethnic groups to lose eligibility or benefits under the proposed BBCE and SUAs. The estimated likelihood of eligibility loss from the proposed ABAWD changes differs little among racial and ethnic groups…
As the nation’s primary food assistance program, SNAP delivered more than $60 billion in benefits to 39.8 million people in 2018. We estimate that if the proposed regulatory changes to BBCE, ABAWD, time limit waivers, and standard utility allowances had been implemented in 2018, the average monthly number of participating households would have fallen by 2.1 million, 3.7 million fewer people would have received SNAP, and annual benefits would have fallen by $4.2 billion.
While some states would be minimally affected, others would experience caseload and benefit reductions of 15 percent or more. Nearly a quarter of households with elderly members would lose eligibility as would 7 percent of households with children. Sixteen percent of households would have lower benefits, for an average monthly loss of $37 and 13 percent would have higher benefits, with an average gain of $14.
Analyzing the policies both alone and in combination provides key insights into the extent to which different states and subgroups would be affected. Given the substantial effects, the policies and potential impacts should be considered carefully by policymakers and communities.
November 17, 2019: HuffPost posted “Trump Administration Rule May Mean 1 Million Kids Lose Automatic Free Lunch”. From the article:
Nearly a million children could lose their automatic eligibility for free lunches under a Trump administration proposal that would reduce the number of people who get food stamps.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released an analysis that says as many as 982,000 children could be affected by the change. About half would have to pay a reduced price of 40 cents for school lunch and 30 cents for breakfast. Around 400,000 would need to pay the full price, which varies depending on the district.
The rest – 445,000 – would remain eligible for free meals, but their families would have to apply to qualify.
Children automatically qualify for free lunches if their families receive food stamps, but the Trump administration has proposed tightening eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which was once known as food stamps. The USDA is not proposing changes to the income rules for the program. It says it is addressing a loophole that gives eligibility to people who would not have otherwise qualified…
November 30, 2019: NBC News posted an article titled: “Trump administration proposals could cause millions to lose food stamps.” It was written by Phil McCausland. From the article:
Three proposed rule changes by the Trump administration could cause millions of poor people to lose access to food stamps and decrease the benefit for millions more, a new study has found.
Over the past year, the Department of Agriculture produced three changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP or food stamps. The new rules create stricter work requirements for program eligibility, cap deductions for utility allowances and “reform” the way 40 states automatically enroll families into SNAP when they receive other forms of federal aid.
A study by the Urban Institute released this week examined the three rules in combination for the first time and found that 3.7 million fewer people would receive SNAP in the average month, 2.2 million households would see their average monthly benefits drop by $127, more than 3 million others would see an average drop of $37 per month, and 982,000 students would lose access to free or reduced lunches..
…These new rules also have advocates in states like Nevada worried. Nevada could see up to 22 percent of recipients lose access to food stamps, which could be devastating in a place where 12.3 percent of household face food insecurity, according to the USDA…
December 4, 2019: The Guardian posted an article titled: “668,000 will lose food stamp benefits under new work rules”. It was written by Juliet Linderman. From the article:
Hundreds of thousands of Americans who rely on the federal food stamp program will lose their benefits under a new Trump administration rule that will tighten work requirements for recipients.
The move by the administration is the latest attempt to scale back the social safety net for low-income Americans. It is the first of three proposed rules targeting the Supplemental Nutrition Program, known as SNAP, to be finalized. The program feeds more than 36 million people.
The plan, announced Wednesday, will limit states from exempting work-eligible adults from having to maintain steady employment in order to receive benefits…
…The new rule imposes stricter criteria states must meet in order to issue waivers. Under the plan, states can only issue waivers if a city or county has an unemployment rate of 6% or higher. The waivers will be good for one year and will require the governor to support the request.
The final rule will go into effect in April…
December 4, 2019: CBS News posted an article titled: “Nearly 700,000 Americans could lose food stamps under Trump administration plan”. It was written by Aimee Picchi. From the article:
The Trump administration is tightening work requirements for food stamps eligibility for able-bodied adults without children, a move that could push almost 700,000 people from the program while saving $5.5 billion over five years.
The reason for the new rule is to encourage adults between the ages of 18 and 49 to return to work, Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. The food stamp program was meant to provide “assistance through difficult times, not a way of life,” he said.
The new rule won’t affect children or their parents, disabled Americans or those over age 50, USDA Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps said in the call. It would impact about 2% of the 34.3 million people currently receiving food stamps by challenging the way states can grant waivers for work requirements, making it tougher for individuals to qualify for the program…
…Experts who study food policy and the SNAP program said new rule won’t help people who are already struggling, and is likely to place a bigger burden on states and local charities to fill the gap. Although the economy is adding jobs, many of those new positions offer low-wage work and few, if any, benefits. About half of Americans now work in low-paying jobs that pay a median wage of $18,000 a year…
December 4, 2019: HuffPost posted an article titled: “Trump Administration Finalizes First Food Benefit Cut”. It was written by Arthur Delaney. From the article:
…It’s the first of three big changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program the Trump administration is pursuing through regulation after Congress rejected significant cuts last year. Together, the changes would reduce enrollment by more than 3 million. More than 36 million Americans in 18 million households currently receiving monthly SNAP benefits on debit cards that can be used for food in grocery stores.
The rule finalized Wednesday takes away state flexibility to waive a three-month time limit for SNAP beneficiaries who aren’t elderly and who don’t have children or disabilities, or about 7% of recipients…
…Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue suggested in a statement that the people targeted by the regulation spend too much time soaking up benefits.
“We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand, but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand,” Perdue said…
…Of the SNAP recipients affected by the new regulation, 97% live in poverty and 81% live alone, according to an analysis published in March by Mathematica Policy Research.
The rule is set to take effect next April. Democrats in Congress have already said they’ll sue to block the regulation, and anti-hunger advocacy groups have said they’ll sue as well…
December 4, 2019: StarTribune posted an article titled: “Thousands of Minnesotans caught up in federal push to tighten work requirements for food aid”. It was written by Mary Lynn Smith. From the article:
Thousands of Minnesotans could lose access to food stamps when a federal rule change goes into effect next year tightening work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Federal officials say about 7% of those on SNAP are able-bodied adults without dependents and that the rule change will save the government $5.5 billion over five years. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said the change is about “restoring the original intent of food stamps … moving more able-bodied Americans to self-sufficiency.”
But advocates who serve Minnesotans who rely on SNAP argue that the change will make it difficult for those who need help to get it and put even more pressure on food shelves and other community programs…
…Under current law, able-bodied adults without dependents can receive SNAP benefits for a maximum of three months during a three-year period, unless they’re working or enrolled in an education or training program for 80 hours a month.
In some states, including Minnesota, that time limit has been waived in counties with high unemployment. But under the new rule, the criteria will be tightened for such waivers.
When Minnesota lost its statewide SNAP waiver for able-bodied adults without children in 2013, more than 46,000 people lost their SNAP benefits in the first year, according to the state Department of Human Services. Officials said Wednesday that it’s unclear how many people will be affected by the latest rule change, but they expect to get more information when they talk to U.S. Department of Agriculture officials this week. It’s likely to affect fewer people than in 2013…
December 10, 2019: CBS News posted an article titled: “Total Trump food-stamp cuts could hit up to 5.3 million households”. It was written by Aimee Picchi. From the article:
…To that end, the government has introduced three proposals that would cut about 2.2 million U.S. households, or almost 4 million people, from the program, while also reducing benefits for another 3.1 million households, according to a recent analysis from the Urban Institute.
The plans, one of which was formally adopted by the USDA last week, would deny food stamps to nearly 700,000 Americans – and would make it tougher for millions to qualify for food aid and cut billions from the program’s budget…
…Two other proposals, which are still under consideration, may have an even greater impact. The second plan would eliminate what is known as “categorical eligibility,” which allows people to enroll in food stamps automatically if they qualify for other aid programs. About 3 million people could lose access to food aid under that proposal.
The third proposed rule would reduce the amount of home heating costs used to calculate a SNAP recipient’s net income, effectively making their income seem higher. That would cut benefits to about 3.1 million households, mostly those who live in cold-weather states like New York, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Vermont, the Urban Institute said…
…The cuts would push more people from food stamps at a time when the program is already shrinking. About 36 million people now receive aid from the program, down from about 40 million in 2018. Pushing people from the program would also pare the program’s roughly $60 billion in annual spending by about $4 billion per year, the Urban Instituted estimates…
…To be sure, it’s possible the two proposals still under consideration might not move forward, or could be changed so fewer Americans are dropped from the program. Asked about the time frame for the proposals on the conference call last week, USDA Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps didn’t indicate when they might be implemented…
December 18, 2019: The Texas Tribune posted an article titled: “An estimated 390,000 Texans might lose access to food stamps under new Trump policy”. It was written by Stacy Fernádez. From the article:
…As of November, Texas distributed more than $4.2 billion in federal money to an average of 1.5 million households – about $261 per household.
The rule that passed this month won’t affect Texans in the short term, but a second rule coming down the pipeline could kick as many as 390,000 Texans off SNAP.
The most recent rule change, which goes into effect in April 2020, is estimated to cut benefits for a roughly 700,000 Americans. The change would make it harder for states to waive the federal program’s work requirements in areas of high unemployment. Under current law, those unable to work 30 hours a week can only receive SNAP benefits for three months out of every three years. States that use the waiver can forego that three-month limitation, according to food policy experts.
Texas hasn’t used the waiver for at least six years. In an effort to limit usage, state official decided an area’s unemployment rate has to be at 10% or higher to use the waiver, a threshold that doesn’t currently apply to any Texas counties, said Rachel Cooper, a senior policy analyst with the Austin-based Center for Public Priorities, a left-leaning think tank.
The rule Texas experts are most worried about – because it could impact about 390,000 Texans – is still under review. Although SNAP is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it’s up to states to determine eligibility – like income level and car value – and distribute aid as needed. This change would implement countrywide standards.
Since 2001, Texas has required applicants to make no more than 165% of the federal poverty level – about $42,000 for a family of four – to be considered for SNAP benefits. Under the new rule, that number would fall to 130% of the federal poverty line – about $33,000 for a family of four.
Assets like cars are also taken into account when determining eligibility. Under Texas law, SNAP participants cannot own a car that is valued at more than $15,000. If the proposed rule change goes into effect, that number would drop to $4,650…
…To get a car in the $4,650 price range, it would have to be used and about 10 years old or older, according to leading car websites…
December 18, 2019: CBS posted an article titled: “Why proposed changes to food stamps program could make “the poor more poor”. From the article:
For more than 34 million Americans, food stamps help them survive. Now there’s concern proposed changes in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program could drastically cut those benefits, as the Trump administration said it wants to reduce waste…
…The average recipient receives about $127 a month. That’s $1.40 a meal, three meals a day.
But an estimated 3.7 million Americans could lose their benefits next year if the government implements three proposed changes:
- Removing automatic enrollment for families who qualify for other government benefits
- Reducing how much people can deduct for utilities like heat
- Requiring more able-bodied adults to work at least 20 hours a week to receive benefits.
The last proposal has already been finalized and will be implemented in April…
December 20, 2019: NBC News posted an article titled: “Trump administration moves to impose stricter work requirements for food stamps”. It was written by Allan Smith. From the article:
President Donald Trump is attempting to do through executive action what Congress would not: tighten work requirements for the millions of Americans who receive food stamps.
The Department of Agriculture, which runs the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program commonly referred to as food stamps, unveiled a proposed new rule at Trump’s direction on Thursday that restricts states’ ability to waive existing work requirements in areas where unemployment rates are higher than the national rate.
The proposed change comes as the president is poised to sign a much-negotiated farm bill that ultimately included now significant changes to food stamps despite backing from the White House…
…Trump is set to sign an $867 billion farm bill Thursday afternoon that doesn’t include significant changes to SNAP. But that wasn’t for lack of trying – House bills backed by the president included significant changes to the federal food assistance program, including tougher work requirements.
But none of those measures made it into the final version of the bill ultimately passed by both chambers of Congress after months of back-and-forth. Trump used his executive authority to direct the USDA to make the changes…
…The rule applies to nondisabled people between the ages of 18 and 49 who do not have any dependents. The elderly, disabled and pregnant women are not subjected to the change, the USDA said.
Speaking at a signing ceremony for the farm bill, Trump said, “able-bodied adults without dependents will” now “have to work or look for work to keep their food stamps.”…
December 20, 2019: USA Today posted an opinion piece titled: “New SNAP rules encourage productivity instead of poverty: Sonny Perdue”. It was written by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. From the opinion piece:
More than 20 years ago, Democrats and Republicans came together to reform our welfare programs to restore the system to what it was meant to be: “a second chance, not a way of life,” in the words of then-President Bill Clinton. Over time, without any changes in the underlying welfare reform legislation of 1996, that ideal has been watered down by out-of-control administrative flexibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Today, at the direction of President Donald J. Trump, we are taking steps to restore the integrity to SNAP and move people toward self-sufficiency…
…At a time when the jobless rate has hit 3.7 percent – the lowest since 1969 – and available jobs outnumber those seeking employment, we expect that able-bodied people who are not working, or seeking work, enter or reenter the labor force.
Instead, because of a permissive regulation that allows states to grant waivers to wide swaths of their populations, millions of people who could work are continuing to receive SNAP benefits. The president has directed me, as Secretary of Agriculture, to propose regulatory reforms to ensure that those who are able to work do so in exchange for their benefits. This restores the dignity of work to a sizeable segment of our population, while it is also respectful of the taxpayers who fund the program…
…For Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) – those non-disabled people between the ages of 18 and 49 – there is a reasonable expectation for them to work or look for a job. Under current SNAP requirements, ABAWDs must work or participate in an employment program for at least 20 hours a week to continue to receive benefits for more than three months over a 36-month period…
…Our proposed rule limits the availability of waivers for states and promotes work and self-sufficiency in the SNAP program. The proposal restricts waivers to areas where the unemployment rate exceeds 7 percent, which is when jobs are truly hard to find. It also eliminates the practice of some states which “gerrymander” multiple counties together that are not otherwise connected economically in order to maximize the reach of waiver requests. This practice leads to counties receiving waivers that would not independently qualify. For instance, Oregon’s Wheeler County had an unemployment rate of 4.65 percent in their 2018 waiver.
Further, and importantly, the rule addresses the behavior of some states to “bank” exemptions to the waiver restrictions. Currently, states can exempt up to 15 percent of their ABAWDs from work each year, but if exemptions are not used, they can be kept for future years. Despite the law’s 15 percent exemption cap, current regulations have allowed for “banking,” permitting states to build up large surpluses of exemptions, each one available to use to grant one ABAWD an additional month of benefits. California, for example, has stockpiled some 800,000 exemptions over time, meaning it can exempt ABAWDs far into the future. Our proposed rule ends this hoarding of exemptions and allows only a one-year lookback.
This is not a perfect solution. It would be preferable for Congress to permanently enact these important reforms to the SNAP program. However, these regulatory changes by USDA will reward more Americans with the virtue of work, save hardworking taxpayers $15 billion over ten years, and give President Trump comfort enough to support a Farm Bill he might otherwise have opposed…
It should be noted that this propaganda opinion piece from Secretary Perdue was published on December 20, 2019, two days after President Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. So, the part about asking Congress to give Trump a Farm Bill that would include the cuts to SNAP … is presumptuous.
The U.S. Senate trial had not yet begun, so there was no way for Secretary Perdue to know, for certain, what the outcome of that would be. One possible outcome in an impeachment trial is for the Senate to remove the president from office. (Note: the outcome of a Senate trial CAN NOT erase that the president has been impeached.)
In the meantime, the Trump administration wants to take the ability to afford food away from people – who may be working – but are unable to make enough money to avoid being food insecure.
December 30, 2019: Hawaii Attorney General Clare E. Connors posted a news release titled: “Hawaii Attorney General Joins Multistate Lawsuit to Stop Elimination of Food Assistance for Nearly 700,000 Struggling Americans”. From the news release:
Hawaii Attorney General Clare E. Connors joined a group of 20 Attorneys General and New York City in a lawsuit to stop the Trump administration form eliminating food assistance for nearly 700,000 Americans. The lawsuit, filed in D.C., challenges a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that would limit states’ ability to extend benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as “food stamps”, beyond a three-month period for certain adults. AG Connors and her counterparts assert that the rule directly undermines Congress’ intent for the food-stamp program, and that the USDA violated the federal rulemaking process. Further, they argue that the rule would impose significant regulatory burdens on the states and harm states’ residents and economies. The coalition is urging the court to declare the rule unlawful and issue an injunction to prevent it from taking effect.
“The USDA rule is contrary to the underlying SNAP statute and its adoption failed to follow the legal processes,” said Attorney General Connors. “Allowing this rule to take effect undermines the ability of individual states to care for its most valuable citizens.”..
December 31, 2019: The New York Times posted an article titled: “How Cutting Food Stamps Can Add Costs Elsewhere”. It was written by Austin Frakt and Elsa Pearson. From the article:
The Department of Agriculture recently finished work on a new rule that may take food stamps away from nearly 700,000 Americans by tightening work requirements. Several times in the past year, the government has proposed cutting food stamp eligibility. the new rule is intended to save almost $8 billion over five years.
It’s not clear how much money would actually be saved, research suggests, given the costs that might come from a decline in the health and well-being of many of the country’s 14.3 million “food-insecure” households.
The Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. It affects low-income, single-parent, and black and Hispanic households the most, but it cuts across many demographic lines and affects 11 percent of American households over all…
…”SNAP recipients often work, but their employment can be unsteady,” said Dr. Seth A. Berkowitz, an internist and assistant professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Seasonal variation in some labor markets – like agriculture or even retail consumer jobs when sales may spike around the winter holidays – can put people temporarily out of work, making it hearder for them to keep food on the table. “The way these work requirements are imposed could pull support out from under people even when they are working.”..
…Feeding America estimates at least 30 percent of those with food insecurity nationwide aren’t eligible for SNAP. In some states, its nearly 50 percent. Tightening eligibility for the program, as new work requirements would do, would only increase that number.
January 7, 2020: CBS Minnesota posted an article titled: “Thousands In Minnesota May Lose SNAP Benefits Under Trump Cuts”. It was written by Kate Raddatz. From the article:
Thousands of Minnesotans will likely lose their food stamps under new eligibility cuts.
Last month President Trump’s administration announced that benefits under the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would be limited to adults ages 18 to 49 without dependents. The Minnesota Department of Human Services says that would leave 8,000 Minnesotans without food.
The average SNAP recipient recieves $127 dollars a month, or just under $1.27 for a meal. With more proposed changes to food stamp eligibility on the table, DHS says hunger would increase in Minnesota…
…Officials say one in 11 Minnesotans are food insecure. The first cut to SNAP benefits will go into effect in April.
January 13, 2020: The New York Times posted an article titled: “What Happened When a State Made Food Stamps Harder to Get”. From the article:
…Four years ago, thousands of poor people here in Caball County and eight other counties in West Virginia that were affected by a state policy change found themselves having to prove that they were working or training for at least 20 hours a week in order to keep receiving food stamps consistently. In April, under a rule change by the Trump administration, people all over the country who are “able-bodies adults without dependents” will have to do the same.
The policy seems straightforward, but there is nothing straightforward about the reality of the working poor, a daily life of unreliable transportation, erratic work hours and capricious living arrangements.
Still, what happened in the nine counties in West Virginia in the last four years does offer at least an indication of how it will play out on a larger scale.
The most visible impact has been at homeless missions and food pantries, which saw a big spike in demand that has never receded. But the policy change was barely noticeable in the work force, where evidence of some large influx of new workers is hard to discern. This reflects similar findings elsewhere, as states have been steadily reinstating work requirements in the years since the recession, when nearly the whole country waived them.
Since 1996, federal law has set a time limit on how long able-bodied adults could receive food stamps; no more than three months in a three-year period, if the recipient was not working or training for at least 20 hours a week. But states have been able ot waive those rules in lean times and in hurting areas; waivers are still in place in roughly one-third of the country.
Under the new rule from the Trump administration, most of these waivers will effectively be eliminated. By the administration’s own estimate, around 700,000 people will lose food stamps. Officials say that there are plenty of jobs waiting for them in the humming economy.
That was the thinking as West Virginia began lifting waivers four years ago, starting in the counties where unemployment rates were lowest…
…That the number of people receiving food stamps would drop significantly was, of course, by design. The question was what would become of them.
According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, a research group that focuses heavily on social safety-net issues, there was no evidence of a big change in the job market. While around 5,410 people lost food stamps in the nine counties, the growth in the labor force in these counties over he ensuing three years significantly lagged the rest of the state. Average monthly employment growth in the counties actually slowed, while it nearly doubled in the res of West Virginia.
“We can prove it from the data that this does not work,” said Seth DiStefano, policy outreach director at the center…
January 15, 2020: NBC 4 posted an article titled: “20,000 Ohioans could lose SNAP benefits when work requirements takes effect.” It was written by Ted Hart. From the article:
As many as 20,000 Ohioans could lose access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) when new, stricter work requirements take effect…
…Rose County is one of 29 counties in Ohio that will no longer be eligible to waive the food stamp work requirements for able-bodied adults.
Under the new rule, a county’s unemployment rate has to be more than 6 percent to continue to qualify for a waiver of the work requirement. The goal is to move more people off the benefits and into full time work.
The Trump administration formalized the new work requirements last month…
…Will Petrick at Policy Matters Ohio says work requirements for food stamps misses the mark. “There’s kind of a basic foundation that all families need to thrive, to participate and so this moves it in the wrong direction,” Petrick said. “It takes away that basic need for food for people.”
“This has been pitched as we need to push people into work but there’s really no support for employment training for education, those types of supports for families,” Petrick said…
January 16, 2020: New York Attorney General Letitia James posted news on her official website titled: “AG James Files Lawsuit To Stop Trump Admin from Stripping Food Assistance From Nearly 700,000 Vulnerable Americans”. From the news release:
New York Attorney General Letitia James and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine today filed a lawsuit to stop the Trump Administration from eliminating food assistance for nearly 700,000 Americans. The lawsuit, which was joined by 13 attorneys general and the City of New York, challenges a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that would limit states’ ability to extend benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as “food stamps,” beyond an three-month period for certain adults. The coalition asserts that the rule directly undermines Congress’ intent for SNAP, and that the USDA violated the federal rulemaking process. Further, they argue that the rule would impose significant regulatory burdens on states and harm states’ economies and residents. The coalition is urging the court to declare the rule unlawful and issue an injunction to prevent it from taking effect on April 1, 2020…
…This rule will deny access to food assistance for more than 50,000 people in New York City, and put tens of thousands more throughout New York State at risk of going hungry.
SNAP has served as the country’s primary response to hunger since 1977 and has been a critical part of federal and state efforts to help lift people out of poverty. The program provides access to food for millions of Americans with limited income who would otherwise struggle with food insecurity. While the federal government pays the full cost of SNAP benefits, it shares the cost of administering the program on a 50-50 basis with the sates, which operate the program.
Congress amended SNAP in 1996 with the goal of encouraging greater workforce participation among beneficiaries. The changes introduced a three-month time limit on SNAP beneficiaries for unemployed individuals aged 18-49 who are not disabled or raising children – “able-bodied adults without dependents” (ABAWDs). Congress understood that states were best positioned to assess whether local economic conditions and labor markets provided ABAWD’s reasonable employment opportunities. As a result, the law allows a state to acquire a waiver of the ABAWD time limit for areas where the unemployment rate is above 10 percent, or if it presents data demonstrating that the area lacks sufficient jobs for ABAWDs. States were also given a limited number of one-month exemptions for individuals who would otherwise lose benefits under the time limit, and were permitted to carry over unused exemptions to safeguard against sudden economic downturns.
Over the last 24 years, Congress has maintained the criteria for states to obtain waivers and to carry over unused exemptions. It has reauthorized the statute four times without limiting the states’ discretion over these matters and overwhelmingly rejected attempts to add restrictions on waivers in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Shortly after President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bil into law, the USDA announced a proposed rule seeking changes almost identical to those Congress rejected. The USDA received more than 100,000 comments in total – the majority of which reflected strong opposition from a broad range of stakeholders. Regardless, USDA’s final rule went even further in restricting state discretion over waivers and exemptions than what it had initially proposed.
In the lawsuit, the states collectively argue that the administration’s rule change:
Contradicts statutory language and Congress’s intent for the food-stamp program: When Congress amended SNAP and added the ABAWD time limit in 1996, it included a waiver process explicitly providing for relief from the time limit if insufficient job opportunities were available for ABAWDs and clearly indicating that states were best equipped to make this determination based on local economic and employment conditions. Congress has reaffirmed this position multiple times, most recently in 2018. Yet the USDAs new rule severely restricts states’ discretion over these matters and essentially writes this basis for waiver out of the statute, in direct contravention of law and congressional intent. Major aspects of the rule mirror proposed changes that Congress explicitly rejected in 2018.
Raises healthcare and homelessness costs while lowering economic activity in the states: For SNAP recipients, losing benefits means losing critical access to food, raising the risk of malnutrition and other negative health effects. Studies have shown that SNAP can counteract food insecurity and lower healthcare costs for recipients by about $1,400 per person – costs that state governments will likely bear in the absence of SNAP assistance. Without SNAP benefits, many will be forced to choose between having food to eat or place to live. Their purchasing power will decrease, harming state economies. As the USDA concedes in the rule, these impacts will be most concentrated among lower-income communities of color.
Amends the law for arbitrary and capricious reasons: The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) requires agencies to adequately offer a reasoned explanation for changing long-held policies and addresses why the facts and circumstances supporting the prior policy should be disregarded. For over two decades, the USDA has accepted Congress’ premise that a state should define the geographic scope of its waiver request and support that request with a wide range of data sources that are together best able to capture employment prospects for ABAWDs. Yet the new rule strictly defines the area for which waivers may be sought and rejects data beyond general unemployment figures without any justification.
Violates the federal rulemaking process: The APA governs internal procedures for federal agencies, including rulemaking. Among other requirements, agencies must solicit and consider public comments on the substance of a rule. The USDA broke from this process by issuing a final rule that diverged from its proposed rule in significant and substantial ways. For example, while the proposed rule maintained that a state could receive a waiver if it qualified for extended unemployment benefits under Department of Labor policies, the final rule eliminated this basis. Thus, commenters did not receive meaningful opportunity to comment on the full extent of the agency’s changes.
New York Attorney General Letitia James and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine are co-leading this lawsuit and are joined by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia along with the City of New York. The lawsuit was filed in United States District of Columbia. The States filed a motion for Preliminary injunction concurrently with the complaint to enjoin the rule from going into effect on April 1, 2020.
January 16, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release on his official website titled: “Attorney General Becerra Joins Multistate Lawsuit Challenging Federal Rule Limiting Access to Food Assistance”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general and the City of New York in a lawsuit challenging a Trump Administration rule that would significantly limit access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for people in need. In the complaint, the coalition argues that the rule places arbitrary and capricious restrictions on the ability of states to administer food assistance programs for able-bodies adults without dependents and disproportionately harms people of color. In the first year alone, it is estimated that more than 55,000 Californians will lose SNAP eligibility, a loss of more than $100 million in benefits.
“No one should have to choose between a hot meal and paying their rent,” said Attorney General Becerra. “But this latest Trump Administration attack on low-income Americans will force them to do just that. It will cause hundreds of thousands of people to go hungry. And, yet again, the Trump Administration has failed to offer any legitimate evidence to justify decision that have real consequences for the health and well-being of our residents. Together with our partners all across the country, we’re fighting back and we’re confident the law is on our side.”
The new rule is part of the Trump Administration’s ongoing campaign to curtail access to important assistance programs and limit the ability of states to protect the heath and well-being of their residents. It upends decades of cooperation between states and the federal government and will force people to make untenable decisions between food and other basic necessities. For example, the rule includes arbitrary limits on the types of data states can rely on in making determinations about who should be eligible for food assistance. It also allows the federal government to ignore the needs of certain populations by blocking waivers for entire regions if the region is designated as a labor surplus area. The new rule arbitrarily complicates states’ abilities to apply for and obtain waivers, making it more difficult for states to focus on providing access to food assistance.
In the lawsuit, the coalition maintains that the Trump Administration did not fully access the impact of the proposed rule and did not consider methods for mitigating its effects, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. For instance, the rule turns a blind eye to the fact that, by the Trump Administration’s own admission, the rule will likely have a disparate impact on women and people of color who often face significant barriers to employment above and beyond the general population. Though the average unemployment rate since 1972 has been 6.1 percent for whites, that number is 13.9 percent for African Americans and 10.2 percent for Latinos…
…In filing the lawsuit, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys of the District of Columbia, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia as well as the City of New York.
A copy of the lawsuit is available here.
January 16, 2020: Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum posted a media release on her official website titled: “AG Rosenblum Sues to Stop Trump Administration from Slashing SNAP Food Assistance”. From the media release:
Oregon today joined fifteen states and New York City in a lawsuit to stop the Trump administration from eliminating food assistance for nearly 700,000 Americans. The lawsuit challenges a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that would limit states’ ability to extend food stamp benefits in places where jobs are scarce. The coalition of state attorneys generals is urging the court to declare the rule unlawful and issue an injunction to prevent it from going into affect on April 1, 2020.
“The food stamp program (known as “SNAP”) has helped vulnerable Oregonians for over 40 years. It is hard to fathom why the federal government wants to punish thousands of adults in some of the most employment-impacted areas of our state – people who may not be able to find jobs – by taking away their access to food,” said Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum…
…In a declaration filed with the lawsuit, the Director of the Self Sufficiency Program for the Oregon Department of Health and Human Services, Daniel Huan, explained that as of November 2019, Oregon had 347,941 households, for a total of 586,781 Oregonians, who receive SNAP benefits statewide. Of these individuals, 21,886 Oregonians are potentially affected if this rule goes into effect. Their average food benefit ranges from $166 – $186 per month…
January 16, 2020: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison posted a press release on his official website titled: “Attorney General Ellison sues to stop Trump Administration from ending food assistance for more than 8,000 Minnesotans.” From the press release:
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today joined a group of 15 attorneys general and the City of New York in filing a lawsuit to stop the Trump administration from eliminating food assistance for more than 8,000 Minnesotans and a total of nearly 700,000 Americans. The lawsuit challenges a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that would limit states’ ability to extend benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (USDA), commonly known as “food stamps” beyond a three-month period for certain adults. Attorney General Ellison and the coalition assert that the rule undermines Congress’ intent for the food-stamp program, and that the USDA violated the federal rulemaking process. Further, they argue that the rule would impose significant regulatory burdens on the states’ residents and economies.
The coalition is urging the court to declare the rule unlawful and issue an injunction to prevent it from taking effect on April 1, of this year.
“It’s hard to believe that the Administration wants to make it even harder than it already is for people to afford their lives and even harder for some people to afford to eat, but time and time again they’ve shown us that’s what they’re up to,” Attorney General Ellison said. “It’s my job to protect the people of Minnesota. When the federal government is out to hurt them, I’ll fight back for them.”…
…Twenty-six Minnesota counties are currently approved for time-limit waivers, but under the new rule, 23 will no longer qualify. According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, approximately 2,100 Minnesotans will lose their food assistance if the time-limit waiver is eliminated, and approximately 6,000 Minnesotans will lose their food assistance if Minnesota can no longer carry over unused exemptions. DHS also estimates it will cost the State at least $500,000 of staff time and retraining if the new rule takes effect on April 1…
January 16, 2020: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison tweeted: “It’s hard to believe the Trump Admin wants to make it harder for ppl to afford their lives & even to afford to eat, but a new Trump rule ends food assistance to 8K Minnesotans & 700K Americans. It’s my job to protect Minnesotans, so I sued to block it.” The tweet included a link to the press release above.
January 16, 2020: Minnesota Governor Tim Walz tweeted: “We are not #OneMinnesota when our neighbors are hungry. The Trump Administration’s cuts to SNAP will increase hunger across the state, especially in Greater MN. Thank you @AGEllison for standing up for Minnesotans today.” This tweet included a link to the above tweet from Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.
January 16, 2020: Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia posted a press release titled: “Legal Aid Sues Trump Administration to Stop ‘Cruel and Ineffective’ New Food Stamps Rule”. From the press release:
The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia (Legal Aid) is filing a federal lawsuit today to stop implementation of a new Trump Administration rule that could cut about 700,000 Americans off food stamps.
The new rule, scheduled to go into effect on April 1, would make it more difficult for states to obtain waivers of an onerous federal requirement within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps). The rule prevents so-called “able-bodied adults without dependents” from receiving SNAP benefits for 33 to 36 months, unless they meet certain work requirements. Historically, states and the District of Columbia have been able to obtain waivers of these time limit if they could show that the state (or an area within the state) lacked sufficient jobs for these adults.
“Taking food off the table from Americans who are already struggling to make ends meet is cruel and ineffective,” said Eric Angel, Executive Director of Legal Aid. “SNAP benefits are an essential part of the safety net for a large number of people who critically need them. Implementation of this rule will not increase the employment rate among SNAP beneficiaries. But it will most definitely increase hunger.”…
…Legal Aid and the firm of Alston & Bird LLP are filing the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of social services agency Bread for the City and individual DC residents currently receiving food stamps…
…Also today, more than a dozen states attorney generals filed a similar challenge in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia. Legal Aid anticipates that the lawsuit will be consolidated.
January 16, 2020: Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia tweeted: “Legal Aid filed a federal lawsuit today to stop implementation of a new Trump Administration rule that could cut about 700,000 Americans off food stamps, on behalf of individual and DC residents and @BreadfortheCity.” The tweet includes a link to the press release above.
January 16, 2020: New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal posted a press release on his official website titled: “AG Grewal Files Lawsuit Challenging Federal Rollback of Food Stamps Assistance”. From the press release:
Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that New Jersey is joining 15 other states and municipalities in filing a lawsuit to block a federal rule that, if allowed to stand, would cut off federal food assistance for approximately 700,000 Americans. Thousands of New Jersey residents could be affected.
The challenged rule, which was issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in November 2019 and is scheduled to take effect in April 2020, limits states’ ability to extend Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, commonly known as “food stamps,” beyond a three-month period for certain adults.
Generally, non-disabled individuals without dependents must meet work requirements in order to receive more than three months of SNAP benefits beyond the usual time limits for individuals in areas of high unemployment, because those individuals often find it more difficult to meet the work requirements. The new rule restricts States’ ability to provide such extensions.
Waivers have allowed New Jersey to continue to provide SNAP benefit to individuals who face education or skills challenge in acquiring jobs, barriers in matching with effective job training, or other obstacles. Time-limit waivers help individuals continue to build the skills needed to find and sustain employment, while avoiding food insecurity, which can pose its own challenges for job seekers.
The complaint filed today alleges that the new rule will harm New Jersey and its residents by limiting the State’s ability to seek additional assistance for individuals in need of food assistance.
“We are committed to helping everyone in New Jersey succeed in a strong and fair economy,” said Attorney General Grewal. “But too many people still struggle to make ends meet, and food insecurity only makes it harder. Taking food off the table of someone who’s struggling won’t help them thrive, and in this case, violates federal law.”
“New Jersey has been able to use flexibility to help individuals without dependents who face challenging economic circumstances receive food assistance benefits beyond a three-month limit. It’s wrong to take away that flexibility when we are helping people get on a better financial footing,” said Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson. “The Trump Administration’s rule will hurt New Jerseyans, and we hope the courts agree this is bad policy that should be stopped…
January 16, 2020: Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan tweeted: “The Trump Admin created a rule that cuts food assistance for nearly 700,000 Americans, including more than 200 Vermont households receiving 3SquaresVT benefits. We’re suing to keep food on Vermonters’ tables and benefit-dollars in our local economies.” The tweet included a link to the press release below.
January 16, 2020: Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan posted a press release on his official website titled: “Attorney General Donovan Joins Lawsuit to Stop Trump Administration’s Cuts to Food Assistance”. From the press release:
Attorney General T.J. Donovan today joined a group of 15 attorneys general and New York City in a lawsuit to stop the Trump Administration from eliminating food assistance for nearly 700,000 Americans, including more than 200 Vermont households. The lawsuit, filed in the District of Columbia, challenges a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that would limit states’ ability to extend benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known in Vermont as 3SquaresVT, beyond a three-month period for certain adults. The coalition asserts that the rule directly undermines Congress’ intent for the SNAP program, and that the USDA violated the federal rulemaking process by not allowing for a meaningful opportunity to comment on the new rule. Attorney General Donovan and his counterparts are urging the Court to declare the rule unlawful and issue an injunction to prevent it from taking effect on April 1, 2020.
“The Trump Administration’s latest cut to food assistance puts benefits for more than 200 Vermont households at risk,” said Attorney General Donovan. “I will continue to fight to keep food on Vermonters’ tables and benefit-dollars in our local economies.”…
January 17, 2020: ABC Action News 6 posted an article titled: “Several states, including Pa. and NJ, sue USDA over new food stamps work requirement.” From the article:
Over a dozen states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, filed a lawsuit along with and New York City and Washington, D.C. against the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday challenging new Trump administration regulations that will require more food stamp recipients to work in order to receive benefits.
The move is a key part of the administration’s efforts to overhaul the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as the food stamp program is formally known. The new requirement, set to go into effect in April, limits states’ ability to waive existing work mandates and could result in 699,000 people losing assistance, according to the USDA.
Citing a federal statute against agency actions that are “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law,” the lawsuit alleges that “the Rule conflicts with the federal statute, the purpose of SNAP, and the clear intent of Congress to alleviate hunger and malnutrition while maintaining States’ flexibility.”
Other states joining in the lawsuit include California, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia…
January 17, 2020: Representative Steny Hoyer tweeted: Yesterday, MD Attorney General @BrianFrosh & 13 other states filed a lawsuit against the Trump Admin’s effort to slash nutrition assistance. We won’t sit back while the Administration advances its plan to cut this critical assistance for families.” The tweet included a link to a Washington Post article.January 20, 2020: TwinCities.com posted an article titled: “How will Trump changes to food stamps affect MN? Tens of thousands will see cuts or lose aid.” It was written by Christopher Magan. From the article:
January 22, 2020: Maryland Hunger Solutions posted a press release titled: “MDHS Applauds Lawsuit to Stop the Administration from Eliminating SNAP Benefits for Nearly 30K Marylanders”. From the press release:
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh today joined a group of 15 attorneys general and New York City in filing a lawsuit to prevent the Trump administration from implementing a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rule change that would take food off the tables of nearly 30,000 Marylanders and 700,000 people across the nation, many of whom struggle to find sufficient hours of work in areas with few jobs. The rule is scheduled to be implemented on April 1, 2020. The litigation asks the court to find the rule unlawful and to issue an injunction to prevent it from taking effect.
“Maryland Hunger Solutions strongly applauds the efforts of Attorney General Frosh to prevent USDA from sidestepping Congress, ignoring the great weight of public opinion, and taking food away from people who are struggling to find stable employment,” said Michael J. Wilson, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. “The final rule would cause serious harm to individuals and communities across the state, from Western Maryland to Baltimore City to the Eastern Shore.”…
January 23, 2020: The Baltimore Sun posted an article titled: “Feds to cut up to 15,000 in Baltimore from food stamps; Maryland, other states suing to halt change”. It was written by Talia Richman. From the article:
As many as 15,000 people in Baltimore could see their food stamp benefits slashed under a new Trump administration rule that tightens eligibility requirements.
Maryland recently joined more than a dozen states in suing to block the U.S. Department of Agriculture from moving forward with the cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. But should the rule go into effect as planned this spring, it would have a devastating impact on Baltimore’s economy and the health of its residents, city officials wrote in a declaration of support of the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction…
…The Trump administration’s rule, finalized last month, would make it harder for states to waive some requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents who live in economically distressed areas…
…Historically, such waivers have been granted to Baltimore City where, as of October, the average 24-month unemployment rate was 5.6% – significantly higher than the national unemployment rate of 3.8% in the same period.
The new rule imposes stricter criteria states must meet to issue waivers. Under the plan, states can issue waivers only if a local area has an unemployment rate of 6% or higher…
…Roughly 30,000 people in Maryland could be affected. It’s one of several changes to the food stamp program the Trump administration has pushed…
…Not only would an estimated 11,000 to 15,000 people lose food stamps, city officials say, but there would be an immediate economic impact as well. People spend food stamps at Baltimore stores, so the change would result in an annual loss of approximately $24 million to $33 million in spending…
…The multistate lawsuit filed Jan. 16 argues the rule contradicts Congress’ intent for the food stamp program and would result in thousands of people losing essential access to food…
January 24, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release on his official website titled: “Broad Coalition of Healthcare Providers, Historians, Policy Leaders, Legal Experts, Members of Congress, and More Join Effort to Fight Harmful Public Charge Rule.” From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced that a broad coalition of healthcare providers, historians, policy leaders, members of Congress, and more filed amicus briefs in support of the state’s efforts to stop the Trump Administration’s harmful public charge rule. The rule unnecessarily targets working immigrants and their families by turning the use of critical health, nutrition, and housing programs that supplement their modest incomes into barriers to lawful admission to the United States. The amicus briefs filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit raise a wide range of concerns with the rule and highlight why implementation should be halted…
…Public benefit programs are designed to help working families make ends meet and ensure strong, healthy families in California. Long-standing guidance by the federal government defined a public charge as a person who is primarily dependent on either public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutional long-term care at the government’s expense. The new rule declares that use of additional federally funded government programs, including nutrition and food support through CalFresh (California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), healthcare through Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program), and housing for families through Section 8 housing assistance may now constitute grounds for a public charge determination. These changes would discourage many eligible immigrants and mixed immigration-status families, who are not otherwise subject to the rule, from accessing benefits to which they are entitled. The rule could have an outsized impact on California, where one in four people are immigrants and one in two children have an immigrant parent. It will also make it harder for hard-working, low- and moderate- immigrants to be admitted into the United States or to get green cards. The new standards are so high that if they were applied to citizens across the country, a substantial portion would likely be considered a ‘public charge.’…
January 24, 2020: Seattle Times posted an article titled: “‘SNAP benefits are not a luxury'”: DelBene, Schrier denounce food-stamp cuts that will affect thousands in Washington”. From the article:
…U.S. Reps. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, and Kim Schrier, D-Sammamish, toured the food bank Friday to discuss and denounce a new Trump administration rule that the state says would take food stamps away from nearly 70,000 people in Washington state.
Announced in December, the rule change applies to able-bodied adults without children, who, if they’re not working regularly, receive food stamps (officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) for only three months every three years. States with high unemployment rates have been able to waive time limits. But the rule change, which is scheduled to go into effect April 1, would set stricter criteria.
The change would cut food benefits for 688,000 people across the country, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) says the change would cut food benefits for 68,000 people in Washington, in 26 counties, including King, Pierce, and Snohomish…
…DelBene, who noted the average household with SNAP receives about $7 a day in benefits, said the change would drive people “further into poverty.”
“SNAP benefits are not a luxury, they are a need,” Schrier said, calling the cuts “incredibly draconian.”…
January 26, 2020: Cleveland.com posted an opinion piece titled: “DeWine administration deserves Ohioans’ thanks for uncovering – and vowing to fix – state Medicaid mess”. It was written by The Editorial Board of Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer. A portion of it discusses the SNAP program:
Kudos to Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration for its candor in exposing big flaws in a computer system, called Ohio Benefit, that’s supposed to help the state manage its part of the Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and food stamp (SNAP) programs…
…State officials say that Ohio’s Benefits’ problem are less acute in handling other federal benefits, such as SNAP (food stamps). But the state’s food banks reported multiple, similar problems a year ago, after SNAP was added to Ohio Benefits toward the end of the Kaisich administration. “The system appears to be wrongly excluding needy Ohioans while handicapping Ohio’s network of food banks in their attempt to intercede for poor and elderly food-stamp recipients,” our editorial board wrote at the time.
The DeWine administration needs to do due diligence on SNAP, to reassure state taxpayers that expensive mistakes aren’t accumulating there, as well…
January 27, 2020: CNBC posted an article titled: “Supreme Court allows Trump’s ‘public charge’ immigration rule to take effect.” It was written by Tucker Higgins. From the article:
The Supreme Court said Monday that it will allow the Trump administration “public charge” rule to take effect after the immigration policy had been blocked by lower courts.
The 5-4 vote was divided along partisan lines, with the court’s four Democratic appointees indicating that they would not have allowed the policy to be enforced.
The rule, which was proposed in August, will make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain permanent residency, or green cards, if they are likely to use public benefits like food stamps and Medicaid.
Under previous federal rules, a more narrow universe of public benefits, such as cash assistance and long-term hospitalization, were considered in determining whether an immigrant was likely to become a “public charge”.
Civil rights groups criticized the rule, arguing that it would penalize poor immigrants and disproportionately affect non-white immigrants…
January 27, 2020: Senator Patty Murray tweeted: “Just stepped out of the impeachment trial to news that the Trump Administration can begin implementing its cruel public charge rule that will threaten the lives & livelihoods of so many hardworking families in WA & across the country. This is just so wrong.
January 27, 2020: Bloomberg posted an opinion piece titled: “Food-Stamp Work Requirements Just Look Cruel”. It was written by Scott Duke Kominers, (who is the MBA Class of 1960 Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and a facility affiliate at the Harvard Department of Economics.) From the opinion piece:
In some circles, the notion that there’s no free lunch isn’t just a metaphor for our economic reality — its taken as a directive. That’s the idea behind the view that to qualify for government benefits, an able-bodied adult should either hold a job or be in school. West Virginia has been testing this theory by imposing such a requirement for eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — more commonly known as food stamps –in certain counties since 2016.
The state has hoped that introducing work requirements would increase employment among SNAP beneficiaries and reduce reliance on food stamps, which ballooned during the Great Recession.
The results aren’t heartening: According to a report from the West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy, work requirements did reduce SNAP participation in the affected counties, which saw a 13.6% decline in enrollment — much higher than the 5.7% decline elsewhere in the state. But employment growth in those counties has, if anything, slowed compared with the rest of West Virginia. And reducing access to food stamps without growth in the job market has in turn put pressure on local food banks and food pantries…
…Whatever the cause, if you’re in and out of work, you’ll have a harder time satisfying eligibility rules that require continuous employment – even if you’re working as much as you can.
There’s also a broader conceptual problem with work requirements for food assistance: Taking away access to food benefits actually makes it harder to work both by reducing nutrition and forcing people to spend more time trying to find food…
January 27, 2020: Senator Tammy Duckworth tweeted: “Disappointing ruling from the Supreme Court. My family teetered on the brink of homelessness when I was in high school & relied on food stamps to survive. My mom is an immigrant – & with this ruling, my family could’ve been forced to choose between her citizenship & going hungry.”
The tweet includes a link to a tweet from The Washington Post, which links to an article titled: “Supreme Court allows Trump administration to implement new rules for immigrants who might use public-assistance programs.”
January 27, 2020: U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge posted news on her official website titled: “Rep. Fudge on Suit to Block Administration’s SNAP Cut.” From the news:
Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, Chair of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations, in a statement Monday highlighted the House’s support of a lawsuit to block the Administration’s rule eliminating state flexibility to administer benefits based on their own need and economic condition through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Fudge issued the following statement on the suit, brought in Washington, and filed by the attorneys general of 15 states, including the District of Columbia:
“The House is proud to stand and fight this Administration’s attack on hungry Americans. In our brief, we cut through the White House’s rhetoric in four ways:
“First, no matter how the Administration tries to sell this, it is not only stripping SNAP benefits from 700,000 hungry, low-income Americans, it is boasting about this travesty as a great accomplishment. Their ‘accomplishment’ is not returning people to work, it’s kicking people off SNAP.
“Second, for a White House that has criticized past Administrations for their perceived regulatory overreach, this iteration of USDA is merely using the same tactics to accomplish its own political objectives. What’s more, the Administration is pushing the same far-Right policy goals that a bipartisan Congress historically rejected in the 2018 Farm Bill.
“Third, Republicans, who have long prided themselves on being the party of federalism and states’ rights, have completely exposed themselves as hypocrites by eliminating the rights of states – red and blue alike – to determine what their own citizens need and serve them accordingly.
“Finally, the Administration’s rule does real harm to SNAP’s ability to accomplish its mission, even by USDA’s own analysis. SNAP combats food insecurity, erosion of public health, and family instability. It fights malnutrition and hunger, lifts millions out of poverty, and improves the health of countless low-income individuals, their families, and their communities, this Administration has pursued political cuts to it at all costs.
“For our part, the House will fight this hypocritical and political cruelty. This is the first of three attempts to kick hungry people off SNAP, and we will be there at every turn, waiting to expose the Administration’s shameful actions.
January 27, 2020: Speaker Nancy Pelosi posted a press release on her official website titled: “Pelosi Statement on Amicus Brief in District of Columbia, et. al. v. Department of Agriculture”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement as the U.S. House of Representatives filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in the court case District of Columbia, et. al. v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, which seeks to block the Trump Administration’s unlawful rule that weakens states’ ability to provide food assistance for thousands of Americans relying on the lifeline of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in high-unemployment areas:
“The Trump Administration’s callous and contemptuous decision to steal food off the table of nearly 700,000 Americans is both clearly unlawful and profoundly immoral. For decades, Congress has reaffirmed SNAP’s vital importance as a lifeline for millions of Americans as a pathway out of poverty, including most recently in 2018 when Congress explicitly rejected attempts by the Administration and Republicans to insert these unjustifiable policies into the Farm Bill. As the House brief states, “the Rule effects an end-run around the 2018 Farm Bill…This Court should not countenance a rule that is so contrary to established law and punishes low-income Americans, causing irreparable injury.’
“The Administration’s ongoing assault on SNAP, which is the most effective anti-hunger initiative in our nation’s history, will cause ‘irreparable harm’ to those it is intended to help and ‘will spur hunger, compounding food insecurity, dangers to public health, and risks to many families.’ This attack on SNAP, in addition to being cruel, also showcases this Administration’s anti-truth, anti-government agenda, ignoring the fact that SNAP injects $1.79 into the economy for every dollar in benefits and lowers health care costs by nearly $1,400 per person.
“Since Day One of this Congress, the House has fought the Administration’s attacks on hungry Americans, and we will continue to work in the Congress and in the courts to ensure all Americans can put food on the table, instead of increasing hunger and perpetuating false-perceptions of low-income Americans, the Trump Administration should work with Congress to connect workers to good-paying jobs and address the crisis of income disparity in America.”
The amicus brief mentioned by Speaker Pelosi is here.
January 27, 2020: The Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision on Department of Homeland Security, et. al. v. New York, et. al. From the decision:
The application for stay presented to Justice Ginsburg and by her referrd to the Court is granted, and the District Court’s October 11, 2019 orders granting a preliminary injunction are stayed pending disposition of the Government’s appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and disposition of the Government’s petition for a writ of certiorari, if such writ is timely sought. Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this stay shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment by this Court.
Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, Justice Sotomayor, and Justice Kagan would deny the application.
Justice Gorsuch, with whom Justice Thomas joins, concurring in the grant of stay.
On October 10, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security began a rulemaking process to define the term “public charge,” as it is used in the Nation’s immigration laws. Approximately 10 months and 266,000 comments later, the agency issued a final rule. Litigation swiftly followed, with a number of States, organizations, and individual plaintiffs variously alleging that the new definition violates the Constitution, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the immigration laws themselves. These plaintiffs have urged the courts to enjoin the rule’s enforcement not only as it applies to them, or even to some definable group having something to do with their claimed injury, but as it applies to anyone.
These efforts have met with mixed results. The Northern District of California ordered the government not to enforce the new rule within a hodge-podge of jurisdictions – California, Oregon, Maine, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. The Eastern District of Washington entered a similar order, but went much farther geographically, enjoining the government from enforcing its rule globally. But both of those orders were soon stayed by the Ninth Circuit which, in a 59-page opinion, determined the government was likely to succeed on the merits. Meanwhile, across the country, the District of Maryland entered its own universal injunction, only to have that one stayed by the Fourth Circuit. And while all these developments were unfolding on the coasts, the Northern District of Illinois was busy fashioning its own injunction, this one limited to enforcement within the state of Illinois.
If all of this is confusing, don’t worry, because none of it matters much at this point. Despite the fluid state of things – some interim wins for the government over here, some preliminary relief for plaintiffs over there – we now have a single injunction to rule them all: the one before us, in which a single judge in New York enjoined the government from applying the new definition to anyone, without regard to geography or participation in this or any other lawsuit. The Second Circuit declined to stay this particular universal injunction, and so now, after so many trips up and down and around the judicial map, the government brings its well-rehearsed arguments here.
Today the Court (rightly) grants a stay, allowing the government to pursue (for now) its policy everywhere save Illinois. But, in light of all that’s come before, it would be delusional to think that one stay today suffices to remedy the problem. The real problem here is the increasingly common practice of trial courts ordering relief that transcends the cases before them. Whether framed as injunctions of “nationwide”, “universal”, or “cosmic” scope, these orders share the same basic flaw – they direct how the defendant must act toward persons who are not parties to the case.
Equitable remedies, like remedies in general, are meant to redress the injuries sustained by a particular plaintiff in a particular lawsuit. When a district court orders the government not to enforce a rule against the plaintiffs in the case before it, the court redresses the injury that gives rise to its jurisdiction in the first place. But when a court goes further than that, ordering the government to take (or not take) some action with respect to those who are strangers to the suit, it is hard to see how the court could still be acting in the judicial role of resolving cases and controversies. Injunctions like these thus raise serious questions about the scope of courts’ equitable powers under Article III…
…It has become increasingly apparent that this Court must, at some point, confront these important objections to this increasingly widespread practice. As the brief and furious history of the regulations before us illustrates, the routine issuance of universal injunctions is patently unworkable, sowing chaos for litigants, the government, courts, and all those affected by these conflicting decisions. Rather than spending their time methodically developing arguments and evidence in cases limited to the parties at hand, both sides have been forced to rust from one preliminary injunction hearing to another, leaping from one emergency stay application to the next each with potentially nationwide stakes, and all based on expedited briefing and little opportunity for the adversarial testing of evidence.
This is not normal…
…The rise of nationwide injunctions may just be a sign of our impatient times. But good judicial decisions are usually tempered by older virtues.
Nor do the courts of nationwide injunctions end there. There are currently more than 1,000 active and senior district court judges, sitting across 94 judicial districts and subject to review in 12 regional courts of appeal. Because plaintiffs generally are not bound by adverse decisions in cases to which they were not a party, there is a nearly boundless opportunity to shop for a friendly forum to secure a win nationwide…. The risk of winning conflicting nationwide injunctions is real too… And the stakes are asymmetric. If a single successful challenge is enough to stay the challenged rule across the country, the government’s hope of implementing any new policy could face the long odds of a straight sweep, parlaying a 94-0 win in the district courts into a single 12-to-0 victory in the courts of appeal. A single loss and the policy goes on ice – possibly for good, or just as possibly for some indeterminate period of time until another court jumps in to grant a stay. And all that can repeat, ad infinitum, until either one side gives up or this Court grants certiorari. What in this gamesmanship and chaos can we be proud of?
I concur in the Court’s decision to issue a stay. But I hope, too, that we might at an appropriate juncture take up some of the underlying equitable and constitutional questions raised by the rise of nationwide injunctions.
January 27, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra: We’ll Keep Fighting to Stop the Trump Administration’s Harmful Public Charge Rule”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today issued a statement following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to stay the nationwide injunction on the public charge rule while litigation is ongoing. The rule unnecessarily targets working immigrants and their families by turning the use of critical health, nutrition, and housing programs that supplement their modest incomes into barriers to lawful admission to the United States.
“This rule harms our children and families in communities across the country. It hurts our economy and the healthcare of so many Californians,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We are a nation of immigrants, so we will lean forward in the face of heartless attacks on working families. Together, we’ll continue to fight to stand up for the rights of each and every person who calls the United States their home.”
Attorney General Becerra has fought against the Trump Administration’s public charge rule ever step of the way. In 2018, Attorney General Becerra called on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to withdraw its initial public charge proposal. In 2019, Attorney General Becerra detailed how the rule will negatively impact California’s public health, social services, housing, educational programs, and economy. Shortly afterward, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit asserting the rule will have a chilling effect that will discourage many other immigrants, who are not otherwise subject to the rule, from accessing benefits that they need. The Attorney General also filed for a motion for a preliminary injunction to halt the rule’s implementation. Today’s decision was on the nationwide injunction in a separate public charge case out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. California’s case is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit…
January 28, 2020: The Palm Beach Post posted an opinion piece titled: “Point of View: Proposed SNAP cuts will hurt Palm Beach County’s hungry school kids”. It was written by June S. Neal. From the opinion piece:
…President Donald Trump is proposing to cut 3 million people from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by reducing qualifying poverty level for benefits from 200% to 130%. That means at least half-a-million students will go hungry because SNAP benefits are tied to free or reduced school lunch eligibility.
Already, one in seven American children face “food insecurity,” a euphemism for hunger. Most can’t afford to pay even reduced prices. The 2018 School Nutrition Association review of almost 1,500 districts nationally found that nearly 75.3% of them had unpaid debts.
Florida is number 8 out among states with the highest number of kids dependent on free and reduced lunches.
According to Casaundra Hechler, School Nutrition Services Specialist for the Palm Beach County School District, as of October 28, the district has a student enrollment of 193,672 students, with 106,193 or 55% receiving free or reduced-price lunches. Magdalena Prieto, general manager of district Food Services, predicts the Trump cuts will hurt 7,000 students…
…Congressmen on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee should vote to pass H.R. 5539, the “Protect SNAP Act,” which would reverse these food stamp cuts…
H.R. 5349 is a bill that was sponsored by Representative Rosa L. DeLauro (Democrat – Connecticut). The bill has 109 sponsors, all of whom are Democrats. It was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on December 6, 2019, and was referred to the House Committee on Agriculture the same day. Nothing has happened with this bill since then.
The text of the bill states:
A Bill to prevent the changing of regulations governing the provision of waivers under the supplemental nutrition assistance program, and for other purposes…
…This Act may be cited as “Protect SNAP Act”…
…No rule, regulation, proposed rule, policy directive, or guideline may be issued or enforced by the Secretary of Agriculture, by te head of any entity within the Department of Agriculture (including the Food and Nutrition Service), or by any other person that…
supersedes subsection (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), or (f) of section 273.24 of title 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations as in effect on December 1, 2018; or
modifies the effect or operation of any such subsection as so in effect.
No Federal funds (including fees) made available for any fiscal year may be used to finalize, implement, administer, enforce, carry out, or otherwise give effect to the proposed rule entitled “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Requirements for Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents” (84 Fed. Reg. 980; February 1, 2019).
January 28, 2020: The Daily Northwestern posted an article titled: “Evanston community members weigh in on new SNAP requirements, impact”. It was written by Daisy Conant. From the article:
The District of Columbia and 15 states are suing the Trump administration over a recent rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that could result in hundreds of Evanston residents losing benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
SNAP, colloquially known as “foods stamps,” provides aid for food purchases to low-income families and individuals. The new rule, set to take effect April 1, will make it more difficult for states to waive the requirement that able-bodied adults without dependents must work at least 20 hours per week to receive program benefits.
Trump administration officials have claimed the new regulation will restore SNAP’s “original intent” and incentivize individuals to seek work. Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, a labor economist and the director of Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research, said she is wary of the officials’ assertions.
She said studies have found that increasing work requirements for SNAP punishes participants according to their economic status and dampens the programs’ counter-cyclical impact…
…House Democrats issued their support of the multi-state lawsuit Monday.
According to the 2016 American Community Survey, around 1,700 Evanston households recieve SNAP benefits, the majority of which are black. Schanzenback estimated the rule could impact between 200 and 300 Evanston residents, considering national levels of able-bodied adults without dependents…
January 29, 2020: CNN posted an article titled: “Slashing food stamps hurts the poor. It also hurts their supermarkets.” It was written by Nathaniel Meyersohn. From the article:
Independent grocery stores and regional supermarket chains already face brutal competition and shrinking profits. Now, they are worried about losing out on a valuable source of sales: food stamp recipients.
A new Trump administration rule will require more low-income recipients to work in order to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The change, which could save the federal government $5.5 billion over the next five years, could result in 700,000 people losing assistance, the Department of Agriculture estimates.
The rule is set to go into effect in April. But a coalition of 14 states, New York City, and the District of Columbia, have filed a lawsuit challenging the rule. The lawsuit notes that cuts to the $61 billion food stamp program will have a ripple effect on grocery stores.
Grocery stores often operate on 1% to 2% profit margins, and they rely on revenue from SNAP redemption spending. The rule change and lost sales from the program may mean grocers start pulling back on orders to their suppliers, reducing labor in stores or even closing down…
…More than $24 billion, or around 40% of the total food stamp program, was redeemed at supermarkets and grocery stores in 2018. Superstores like Walmart, Costco, Target, and others received 52% of SNAP dollars in 2018, and their share of the program has grown in recent years…
…Grocers located in low-income neighborhoods in both rural and urban America will get hurt the most from the SNAP cuts, experts say. They can’t suddenly make up lost sales from SNAP reductions. Some of those include Save A Lot, Ingles, Southeastern Grocers, Brookshire’s, Stater Bros. Markets, Superior Grocers and Weis Markets, according to one analyst…
January 30, 2020: The Chicago Tribune posted an article titled: “Illinois joins lawsuit over Trump’s new food stamp rules that could take benefits from thousands here.” It was written by Sophia Tareen. From the article:
Illinois joined a multi-state lawsuit over proposed Trump administration rules on food stamps that could cause hundred of thousands of Americans to lose benefits, Attorney Genera; Kwame Raoul confirmed Tuesday…
…Illinois could be hit hard. There are over 140,000 residents in the affected category; they’re able-bodied without dependents, according to state officials…
January 30, 2020: The Hill posted an opinion piece titled: “Administration’s new SNAP work rule takes food off the table” It was written by Representative Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), who is Chair of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition and Representative Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who is Chair of the House Rules Committee. From the article:
A new Trump administration rule that will kick over 700,000 people off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – America’s premier anti-hunger program – is set to take effect in April. This rule will literally take food off the tables of American families who are already struggling to get by.
This administration claims that this is all about getting people back to work. But as members of Congress who collectively represent more than a decade of chairmanship on the House Agriculture Committee’s subcommittee that oversees federal anti-hunger programs, we see clearly through this lie. And we believe this is nothing but another cynical and partisan attempt to gut benefits for those who have fallen on hard times.
This president may not know what life is like for people struggling to get by, but we do. We represent tight-knit communities in Northeastern Ohio and Central and Western Massachusetts. Our districts include Democrats, Republicans, and everyone in between. Regardless of their party affiliation, our constituents believe in a hard-day’s work – and helping those who fall on hard times.
They’ve seen how hard it can be sometimes to put food on the table, often through no fault of their own. And they’ve experienced how easy it can be to fall off track when unexpected bills or an illness throw budgets off balance. That is why programs like SNAP exist. Its benefits are modest, averaging about $1.40 per person, per meal. But it is a program that has kept millions of people out of food insecurity, and it continues to be one of the most efficient and effective parts of our federal safety net.
The administration’s attempt to reduce SNAP would be devastating, but the House of Representatives is taking action to fight back. This week, we’re proud to stand alongside our colleagues in filing an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief in which introduces information from outside experts to aid the court in its decision making process.
Our filing raises four distinct objections:
First, the rule would strip at least 700,000 hungry, low-income Americans of their SNAP benefits when it takes effect on April 1. While many experts view this number as merely a floor for the possible total number of recipients kicked off the program as a result of the policy change, the administration is nevertheless trumpeting this systematic eviction as a great accomplishment.
Second, for a White House that has criticized past administrations for their perceived regulatory overreach, this iteration of USDA is merely using the same tactics to fit its own political deliverables. It is also attempting to accomplish the far-right policy goals that a bipartisan Congress categorically rejected in the 2018 farm bill. The administration and its ultra-conservative henchmen in Congress cannot stomach that 369 representatives rejected their partisan assault n the poor.
Third, the administration’s rule actively harms the very people USDA has committed to protect. The rule intentionally reduces the ability of SNAP to accomplish its mission. The administration uses the callous term “self-selection,” suggesting that individuals who can’t meet the new requirements for work or training have decided to do so on their own accord. This is a gutless abdication of responsibility, and a two-faced abandonment of its stated motto to “do right and feed everyone.”
SNAP works. It prevents food insecurity, stabilizes families, boosts public health, lifts people out of poverty, helps our veterans when their transition back to civilian life hits a rough patch, and provides pathways of opportunity for those struggling to get ahead. But instead of looking for ways to end hunger, this administration is doing an end-run around Congress to make hunger worse. We think that is just plain wrong…
January 30, 2020: Denverite posted an article titled: “Colorado joins a multi-state challenge to a Trump administration proposal on food stamps”. It was written by Donna Bryson. From the article:
Colorado has joined 20 states and the District of Columbia in a lawsuit challenging changes that the Trump administration has proposed to food stamp rules.
The proposed changes set to take effect April 1 would limit exemptions relating to the length of time Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits would be available to able-bodied adults without dependents who do not meet work requirements. Of the 450,000 Colorado residents who receive SNAP benefits, traditonally known as food stamps, 7 percen could be affected, said Lawrence Pacheco, a spokesman for Attorney General Phil Weisler. Pacheco cited figurs form the state Department of Human Services.
The suite was filed earlier in January and Colorado joined on Wednesday.
In their court filing, the states said the proposal would “arbitrarily” reverse policy that states have followed for decades to seek waivers from SNAP work requirements in regions that lacked sufficient jobs for people receiving benefits…
…Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump adminsitration can implement a rule seeking to withhold citizenship from immigrants that the government deems likely to rely on food, health and housing benefits while a separate legal challenge of that proposla makes its way through lower courts…
January 31, 2020: Statehouse News Bureau posted an article titled: “20,000 Ohioans Set to Lose SNAP Benefits Under Trump Administration Rule Change”. It was written by Karen Kasler. From the article:
20,000 childless adults who are considered able-bodied and receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 29 Ohio counties will soon be getting letters telling them their benefits are being cut off if they don’t find work quickly.
42 mostly urban and Appalachian counties with high unemployment rates have used waivers to exempt non-disabled people from having to work at least 20 hours a week to get SNAP, commonly known as food stamps.
But a new Trump administration rule going into effect in April raises the jobless threshold, taking away the waiver from all but 13 counties…
…Advocates say many of those people are mentally ill or have substance abuse issues, have low education levels, and may not have reliable transportation or steady residences…
…The average SNAP benefit in Ohio is around $125 a month. The Rule change is predicted to save nearly $5.5 billion over five years..
February 3, 2020: Politico posted an article titled: “‘They literally take food off their table’. It was written by Ryan McCrimmon. From the article:
…USDA has also been accused of playing keep-away with some of the most important metrics related to its policy plans, like the recent proposal to curb broad-based categorical eligibility under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The change would result in 3 million low-income Americans losing automatic eligibility for SNAP, by USDA’s own count. But anti-hunger advocates quickly homed in on another key figure: the number of school children who would lose automatic access to free or reduced-price school meals under the plan.
That number was nowhere to be found when USDA released the draft rule in July.
The department then declined to answer questions for months about how many students would be affected. House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) tried to pry the figures from USDA; he claimed that Perdue’s staff had initially suggested during a phone briefing that more than 500,000 children would no longer automatically qualify for free meals.
Months later, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service published a new analysis in October, late in the day ahead of a House committee hearing with the department’s top nutrition official. That document showed 982,000 students would lose their automatic eligibility for free school meals under the new SNAP rule – nearly double what the department had informally told the congressional staff.
Lawmakers at the hearing angrily questioned why it took so long for USDA to acknowledge the extent of the potential impact on low-income school kids…
…To veterans of the department, USDA’s original analysis in June should have painted the full picture. [Susan] Offut, the former ERS administrator, said it’s unusual that the department didn’t explore the potential consequences for low-income schoolkids before preceding with the proposed rule..
February 6, 2020: NBC News posted an article titled: “Trump admin’s upcoming food stamp change would hurt kids, educators, and advocates testify”. It was written by Phil McCauseland. From the article:
A rule change to the federal food stamp program proposed by the Trump administration would cause children in low-income families across the United States to go hungry, educators and hunger advocates told Congress on Thursday.
The four people who testified Thursday said that a proposed Agriculture Department rule change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, was a fundamental misunderstanding of a regulation known as broad-based categorical eligibility, or BBCE. As of now, states are allowed to waive asset tests – ignoring whether recipients have a care, assets or savings – and raise gross income eligibility limits…
…Critics argue that eliminating BBCE would limit states’ flexibility to address their unique populations, leave more than 3 million people without access to food through SNAP and cause nearly a million children to lose their automatic enrollment in the national school breakfast and lunch programs.
The plan, the second of three proposed rule changes to SNAP by the Trump administration, is expected to take effect soon. An earlier rule will impose stricter work requirements on able-bodied adults without disabilities, and is expected to cut benefits to approximately 700,000 people when it takes effect April 1…
…About 96 percent of the children who would be slated to lose automatic enrollment under the Trump administration’s proposed rule would remain eligible for free or reduced school breakfasts or lunches, but they would have to fill out separate applications.
SNAP provided benefits to 40.4 million people during an average month of the 2018 fiscal year, according to the Agriculture Department, with the average benefit measuring about $126 per person per month. Despite that help, 47.5 percent of households that received the benefit were food insecure…
…Thursday’s hearing was one of four held by the Oversight Committee to examine whether the Trump administration’s proposed regulations would harm children…
…Craig Gundersen, an agricultural and consumer economics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who has studied the program for more than two decades, said the rule would only make food insecurity worse in the United States…
…Gundersen said this was a nonpartisan issue affecting blue states and red states. He said that Florida’s and Nevada’s BBCE rules are set at 200 percent above the poverty line and that Texas’ is set at 165 percent.
A combined 636,800 people stand to lose access to their SNAP benefits in those three states alone, according to an Urban Institute analysis that examined the effect the rule would have had if it was implemented in 2018.
State officials in Michigan expressed particular concern after they recently raised the state’s asset limit to $15,000 and where more than 125,000 people are at risk of losing benefits with the rule change…
…Food banks are also concerned, as they are worried they will have to make up for the 1 billion means SNAP provided last year to families, according to an analysis by Feeding America, a hunger relief organization.
That would be an impossible task, according to Robert Campbell, managing director of policy at Feeding America.
For every meal provided by food banks, SNAP provided nine, he said…
February 10, 2020: The White House released its Budget for FY 2021. Here are the parts that will specifically cause harm to people who are eligible for SNAP, and for kids who are eligible for the free (or reduced) school lunch program:
“…The Budget proposes administrative improvements to the National School Lunch (NSLP) and School Breakfast (SBP) Programs to strengthen program integrity through increased verification of household applications, and ensure that free meal benefits are better targeted to children from low-income households by closing a participation loophole in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).
The NSLP and SBP provide nutritious means to more than 35 million children every school day. Children from low-income households are eligible to recieve meals at low or no cost based on their participation in other means-tested assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or based on self-reported information about their household income and circumstances provided to their child’s school. The Budget includes two proposals that will help ensure that children receiving free meals are indeed eligible for them.
The Budget would require local educational agencies to verify the information reported on eight percent of household applications, which is a modest increase from the current maximum of three percent. This would strengthen the integrity of the benefit eligibility certification process at all levels and help reduce payment error in the NSLP and SBP. The Budget would also limit participation in the CEP to only those schools where 40 percent or more their enrolled students are categorically or automatically eligible for free meals. This would close the loophole that allows local educational agencies to combine entire districts or groups of otherwise ineligible schools with high-poverty schools to serve meals at no charge to all students, better targeting free meal benefits to children in need of assistance.”
When I read this, what I understand is that kids from low-income families, who are eligible for the National School Lunch and National School Breakfast program, will not be able to receive it unless their school has 40 percent or more students who are also eligible for the program. It also sounds like parents are going to have to fill out more forms than they had to before just to keep their kids on the program.
Another portion of the Trump Budget affects the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Here is what that part says:
“Building upon the Administration’s regulatory efforts to reform Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by improving program integrity and promoting self-sufficiency, the Budget proposes commonsense SNAP work requirements that would require all able-bodied adult participants to work, find or train for employment in order to move those who continue receiving benefits toward self-sufficiency. The Budget would also create a new, cost-effective approach to nutrition assistance that combines traditional SNAP benefits with nutritious, American-grown, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) foods provided directly to households. These reforms, combined with new initiatives to bolster program intergrity and streamline State operations by improving data matching and oversight, ensure that SNAP benefit dollars are targeted to the neediest households while significantly reducing the costs to taxpayers.
SNAP provides low-income households with electronic benefits they can use to buy groceries at authorized retailers. As a primary component of the social safety net, SNAP participation grew to historic levels during the recession. However, despite significant economic improvement and a strong job market, participation has not yet declined to pre-recession levels, and too many people are still missing the opportunity to move from dependence to self-sufficiency.
The Administration has made significant reforms to SNAP through the regulatory process, including changes to close eligibility loopholes and eliminate States’ misuse of work requirement waivers. Building upon these regulatory successes, which in total are estimated to save nearly $50 billion over 10 years, the Budget proposes to overhaul the SNAP work requirements by requiring that all able bodied adult participants between ages of 18 and 65 engage in at least 20 hours or more of employment, employment-related training, or community service in order to receive benefits. This would help more people get off the sidelines of this booming economy and onto the path toward self-sufficiency.
The Budget also retains the America’s Harvest Box proposal which would combine traditional SNAP benefits with nutritious and 100 percent American-grown food provided directly to households. Under the proposal, households receiving $90 or more per month in SNAP benefits would receive a portion of their benefit in the form of a USDA Foods package, which would include items such as shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned fruit, vegetables, and meat, poultry or fish. The remainder of their benefit would continue to be provided on an Electronic Benefit Transfer card for use at approved grocery retailers. This cost-effective approach would ensure SNAP households receive nutritious food while supporting American agriculture. In addition it would result in no loss in the food benefits to participants, while generating significant savings to taxpayers. States would have substantial flexibility in designing the food box delivery system using existing infrastructure, and the proposal would expand opportunities for innovative approaches to public or private partnerships for benefit delivery and fresh produce options.
In addition, the Budget proposes new program integrity initiatives that would increase monitoring and oversight maximize the use of data sharing, and increase administrative efficiencies. These proposals would improve the accuracy of SNAP eligibility determinations and reduce incidences of duplicate participation in multiple States, thereby decreasing improper payments and ensuring benefit dollars are appropriately targeted to eligible households.”
February 10, 2020: The New York Times posted an article titled: “Trump Budget Would Fray Social Safety Net”. It was written by Alan Rappeport and Lola Fadulu. From the article:
…The White House also wants to take a knife to the federal food stamp program, once again calling for reductions in the number of adults who can qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The 2021 budget proposes cutting SNAP funding by about $15 billion from last year.
The White House has been making changes to the program on its own, raising eligibility requirements and tightening rules that prevent states from obtaining waivers from work requirements. That includes a rule change that goes into effect in April, which will require many adults without children who are able to work to find employment quickly or risk losing their food stamps. The administration estimates nearly 700,000 people across the country would lose access to the program.
…Many of the cost-cutting measures pitched by Mr. Trump have long been championed by Republicans who have in the past expressed concern about rising deficits…
…But Democrats seized on the proposals on Monday as evidence that the president was out of touch with the plight of working families…
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What Happens if Trump Cuts Food Stamps? is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.
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