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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.

May 1, 2017: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted news titled: “Ag Secretary Perdue Moves to Make School Meals Great Again”. From the news:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide greater flexibility in nutrition requirements for school meal programs in order to make food choices both healthful and appealing to students. Perdue made the announcement during a visit to Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg, Virginia to mark School Nutrition Employee Week. Perdue signed a proclamation which begins the process of restoring local control of guidelines on whole grains, sodium, and milk. Perdue was joined by Sen. Pat Roberts (KS), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and Patricia Montague, CEO of the School Nutrition Association…

…Schools have been facing increasing fiscal burdens as they attempt to adhere to existing, stringent nutrition requirements. According to USDA figures, school food requirements cost school districts and states an additional $1.22 billion in Fiscal Year 2015. At the same time costs are going up, most states are reporting that they’ve seen a decrease in student participation in school lunches, as nation-wide about one million students choose not to have a school lunch each day. This impacts schools in two ways: The decline in school lunch participation means reduced revenue to schools while they simultaneously are encountering increased costs.

“I was talking to some folks in Washington about this, and they said that the current program is working. ‘How do you know?’ I asked. They said it’s because 99 percent of schools are at least partially compliant. Well, only in Washington can that be considered proof that the system is working as it was intended,” Perdue said. “A perfect example is in the south, where the schools want to serve grits. But the whole grain variety has little black flakes in it, and the kids won’t eat it. The school is compliant with the whole grain requirements, but no one is eating the grits. That doesn’t make any sense.”

The specific flexibilities are:

Whole grains:

  • Schools are experiencing challenges in finding the full range of products they need and that their students enjoy in whole grain-rich form. They need continued flexibility in meeting the whole grain requirements for school meals.
  • USDA will allow states to grant exemptions to schools experiencing hardship in serving 100 percent of grain products as whole-grain rich for School Year 2017-2018. USDA will take all necessary regulatory actions to implement a long-term solution.

Sodium:

  • For School Years 2017-2018 through 2020, schools will not be required to meet Sodium Target 2. Instead, schools that meet Sodium Target 1 will be considered compliant.
  • The time frame will provide schools and the school nutrition industry with the certainty and predictability they need to make appropriate plans for creating foods with the appropriate amount of sodium.  During this period, USDA will take all necessary regulatory actions to implement a long-term solution.
  • USDA will dedicate significant resources to providing technical assistance to schools as they continue to develop menus that are low in sodium and appealing to students.

Milk:

  • Milk is a key component of school meals, meaning schools must have more options for students who select milk as part of their lunch or breakfast.
  • Perdue will direct USDA to begin the regulatory process for schools to serve 1 percent flavored milk through the school meals programs.  USDA will seek to publish an interim rule as soon as possible to effect the change in milk policy…

May 2, 2017: CNN posted an article titled: “USDA shifts Obama-era school lunch guidelines”. It was writen by Susan Scutti. From the article:

The Trump administration is scaling back school meal nutritional requirements set by the Obama White House in 2012.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation Monday that relaxes standards for the upcoming school year in three key areas: whole grains, salt and milk.

Specifically, states will be able to grant exemptions to schools experiencing hardship in meeting the 100% whole-grain-rich standard although, even with the changes, at least half of the grains offered in schools must be whole grains. Schools no longer need to hit the strictest target for lowering sodium in foods offered to students. And meal programs will be able to serve students 1% flavored milk instead of fat-free flavored milk.

The National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program are federally assisted meal programs that provide nutritionally balanced lunches for children each school day. Both programs are administered by the Department of Agriculture, though local schools set the prices for meals, offering a sliding scale to students based on family income, as required by federal regulations.

In 2012, under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (PDF), former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and first lady Michelle Obama established new standards to raise the overall nutritional requirements for school meals. It’s not the only program championed by Michelle Obama that saw changes this week: The Trump administration also discontinued Let Girls Learn, an education initiative for teen girls in developing countries that started in 2015.

Perdue said in a news release that Monday’s proclamation is the result of “years of feedback from students, schools, and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals.” According to USDA figures, school food requirements cost school districts and states an additional $1.22 billion in fiscal year 2015, but most states reported a decrease in student participation in the school lunch program…

June 28, 2017: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted news titled: “USDA Announces Summer EBT Grants; Includes New States, Rural Communities”. From the news:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the award of $31.5 million in Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (Summer EBT) Grants to explore ways to alleviate hunger among low-income children during the summer, including new projects in Texas and Tennessee. Rigorous evaluations of continuing projects have found that Summer EBT can significantly reduce very low food security among children, the most severe form of food insecurity, by one-third.

During the academic year, free and reduced price school meals help ensure that nearly 22 million low-income children have consistent access to nutritious food through the National School Lunch Program. Only about one in six of those children currently participate in summer meals programs. “USDA has made significant efforts to reach these children through traditional summer meal programs and is testing the use of Summer EBT to help fill the gaps,” Jackson said.

For summer 2017, USDA is awarding Summer EBT grants to nine states and tribal nations that operated demonstration projects in 2016: Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Virginia, and the Chickasaw and Cherokee nations. Seven of the nine grantees are expanding their projects to serve more low-income children in rural communities in 2017 by adding communities within their state or tribal nation and boosting outreach to eligible children.

USDA is also awarding grants to two new applicants to operate demonstrations in 2018. Tennessee and Texas will be the first states to launch new Summer EBT demonstration projects since 2012, allowing USDA and the states to test strategies for building Summer EBT infrastructure and engaging local communities.

Texas participated in Summer EBT in summers 2011-2013 and will be launching its 2018 demonstration in two new communities in central Texas: Elgin and Georgetown school districts. Tennessee will operate a Summer EBT demonstration for the first time in Greene, Hancock, and Hawkins Counties…

…Summer EBT provides low-income families with children with a monthly benefit on a debit-type card that can be used throughout the summer for food purchases at stores in their community. Summer EBT is a complement to traditional summer meal programs and has proven especially practical in areas with limited or no access to traditional summer meal programs…

August 31, 2017: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted news titled: “USDA Awards $5.3 million in Grants for School, Child Care Nutrition Efforts”. From the news:

New resources for nutrition education and food service training are coming to schools during this back to school season in 11 states selected to receive a total of $5.3 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture grants awarded today. 

Acting Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, Brandon Lipps, said the Team Nutrition Training Grants underscore USDA’s commitment to supporting the health of America’s children and the efforts of nutrition and related professionals working in schools and child care facilities across the country…

…Team Nutrition Training Grants are competitive three-year grants of up to $500,000 per state awarded annually as part of USDA’s Team Nutrition initiative, which provides resources, training, and nutrition education lessons for schools and child care providers.

States receiving grants include: Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Rhode Island, Virginia and Wisconsin. For more information on the grantees and projects can be found on the Team Nutrition website.

Grantees will use these funds for a variety of purposes including training in menu planning, food preparation, nutrition education, and local school wellness policies. At the completion of the grants, the best practices and materials developed with these grants will be shared with all states so that others may also benefit from the investment…

September 1, 2017: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted news titled: “USDA, Texas Take Immediate Action, Launch Long Term Plans to Feed Hurricane-Stricken Areas”.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) today announced a number of immediate actions as well as long-term plans for ensuring Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey have access to food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP)…

…Effective immediately, the plan involves a number of short-term solutions including issuing replacement benefits to SNAP households that lost food in the disaster and waivers simplifying state administration of the program. These complement already-existing options, such as the multiple congregate feeding sites offering hot meals prepared using USDA Foods, to ensure those affected by the disaster have access to food in the short-term.

FNS and Texas are simultaneously preparing for longer-term solutions including D-SNAP, which will be implemented once the commercial channels of food distribution have been restored and families are back in their homes. D-SNAP provides streamlined and expanded nutrition assistance after a disaster…

…Details of recent actions impacting affected counties in Texas include:

  • SNAP households that used their August benefits to buy food that was lost in the disaster will automatically have a percentage of their total monthly benefits added to their EBT card to allow them to replace lost food quickly.
  • Households that did not receive replacement benefits automatically will now have 30 days to report food loss, rather than the typical 10 days. To check benefit amounts, recipients can visit YourTexasBenefits.com or call the Lone Star Help Desk at 1-800-777-7EBT (1-800-777-7328).
  • Households with benefits set to expire in August, September, or October of 2017, will have their cases extended for 6 months.  Households who were required to report changes in their circumstances during the months of August, September, or October 2017 will be excused from this requirement. This will give the state the flexibility it needs to serve new households impacted by Hurricane Harvey and still provide good customer service to all SNAP households…

September 26, 2017: Representative Barbara Lee (Democrat – California) tweeted: “As a single mom, food aid was a bridge over troubled water for me & my boys. On #SNAPsince77, we must protect this aid for today’s families.

September 29, 2017: Representative Salud Carbajal (Democrat – California) tweeted: “SNAP funding helps 55k Central Coast residents put food on the table. Today marks 40yrs since this critical bill was made law! #SNAPsince77”

The tweet included a graphic titled “Fighting Hunger in America”.

SNAP helps families facing hunber put food on the table, but for many these benefits often run out before the end of the month, leading to:

  • An increase in hospital admissions from low blood sugar
  • More disciplinary events among school children
  • Poorer test performance among low-income students

September 29, 2017: Representative Ro Khanna (Democrat – California) tweeted: “For the past forty years, SNAP has fed millions of poor and working class Americans. Nobody deserves to go hungry. #SNAPsince77”

September 29, 2017: Senator Ed Markey (Democrat – Massachusetts) tweeted: “Today, 1 in 10 households in Massachusetts are food insecure. Food insecurity is still 24% higher than it was a decade ago. #SNAPsince77”

September 29, 2017: Representative Marcia L. Fudge (Democrat – Ohio) tweeted: “40 years ago, the Food Stamp Act was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter. Today, #SNAP helps more than 40 million Americans put food on the table, including 1 in 10 Ohioans. #SNAPSince77”

September 29, 2017: Senator Diane Feinstein (Democrat – California) tweeted: “(1/3) Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a vital, successful program for feeding Americans.” This tweet was the start of a short thread.

September 29, 2017: Senator Dianne Feinstein (Democrat – California) tweeted: “(2/3) Our state’s version of SNAP, called CalFresh, is key in the fight to end hunger and fed more than 4 million Californians last year.”

September 29, 2017: Senator Dianne Feinstein (Democrat – California) tweeted: “I want CalFresh to have resources it needs to help feed California – including the 1 in 5 children in our state that faces hunger daily.” This tweet was the end of the thread.

September 29, 2017: Representative Jimmy Panetta (Democrat – California) tweeted: ” Today, #SNAP turns 40. We must renew our bipartisan commitment to this critical program, and continue to work to end hunger. #SNAPsince77″

October 9. 2018: The American Statistical Association posted a public release titled: “Leaders across five decades unite to oppose USDA plans”. From the public release:

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 come from land-grant universities,” as well as to cut costs and place its economists and statisticians 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?”…

January 8, 2019: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “USDA Announces Plan to Protect SNAP Participants’ Access to SNAP in February”. From the press release:

…When USDA’s funding expired on December 21, 2018, SNAP benefits for January were fully funded. States have already received that money and have been distributing it to participants. Since the lapse in appropriations, USDA has been reviewing options available to the department for funding February benefits without an additional appropriation from Congress…

…To protect SNAP participants’ access for February, USDA is working with states to issue February benefits earlier than usual. USDA will rely on a provision of the just-expired Continuing Resolution (CR), which provides an appropriation for programs like SNAP and child Nutrition to incur obligations for the program operations within 30 days of the CR’s expiration. USDA will be reaching out to states to instruct them to request early issuance of SNAP benefits for February. States will have until January 20th to request and implement the early issuance. Once the early issuances are made, the February benefits will be made available to SNAP participants at that time.

USDA has also ensured the other major nutrition assistance programs have sufficient funding to continue operations into February. The child nutrition programs, including school meals and after-school programs have funding available to continue operations through March. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) has prior year funding which USDA will begin to provide states this week to facilitate February benefits. Other FNS programs, which provide critical assistance to our nation’s food banks, the elderly, and Tribal nations, may continue to utilize grant funding provided prior to the lapse in appropriations. Commodity deliveries to those programs will continue.

Nutrition Assistance Programs under a Lapse in Appropriations

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

  • USDA will use the authority under the last Continuing Resolution to issue February benefits.  The Continuing Resolution that expired December 21, 2018 provided an appropriation for programs like SNAP and Child Nutrition to incur obligations for program operations during the 30 day-period following the expiration of the Act.
  • States will need to take action to issue February benefits on or before January 20, 2019.  We will be reaching out to States to instruct them to request early issuance of SNAP benefits for February. States will have until January 20 to implement this early issuance. 
  • Once these early issuances are made, the February benefits will be made available to SNAP participants at that time. SNAP monthly issuance for February is estimated to be approximately $4.8 billion and State administrative expense (SAE) is estimated at about $350 million for a total need of approximately $5.1 billion.
  • This approach requires careful coordination. FNS has noticed States to hold their issuance files.  States would, instead, implement an early issuance strategy, providing February benefits to SNAP participants on or before January 20, 2019. We will be working with States individually on how this approach is executed, in order to issue benefits to eligible households in the most efficient and equitable manner possible. 

Child Nutrition Programs

  • For these programs, including school meals and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, States already have funding to cover CN program operations for the month of January (approximately $2.1 billion) on the basis of the last continuing resolution.
  • This week, we will provide an additional two months’ worth of funding, consistent with the standard practice of funding these programs on a quarterly basis…

More information about the 2018-2019 U.S. government shutdown, and what happened during it, can be found here.

February 28, 2019: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “Perdue Reiterates Need to Restore Original Intent of SNAP: A Second Change, Not A Way of Life”. From the press release:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today reiterated during a U.S. Senate hearing the need to restore the original intent of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is to be a second change and not a way of life. Secretary Perdue’s comments come on the heels of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) publishing in the Federal Register a proposed rule to move more able-bodied recipients of SNAP benefits to self-sufficiency through the dignity of work. The rule aims to restore the system to what it was meant to be: assistance through difficult times, not lifelong dependency. This proposed rule focuses on work-related program requirements for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD’s) and would apply to non-disabled people, between the ages of 18 and 49, with no dependents. The rule would not apply to the elderly, the disabled, or pregnant women. Those who are eligible to recieve SNAP – including the underemployed – would still qualify…

…Background:

Congress implemented this work requirements in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconcilliation Act in 1996, and allowed the Secretary, upon request from a State to waive the work requirement for ABAWDs during times of high unemployment. The statute provides the Secretary regarding the Secretary regarding waivers of the ABAWD work requirements.

Congress implemented this work requirement in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act in 1996. This bill gave the Secretary of Agriculture the discretion to allow States to waive the work requirement for ABAWDs during times of high unemployment. This section of the statute related to ABAWD work requirements leaves waiver decisions to the Secretary of Agriculture…

…Under current SNAP statute, 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. States may also allow volunteer activities to satisify the work requirement. States may request to waive the time limit in areas with an unemployment rate above 10 percent or where there are ‘not sufficient jobs,’ which current regulations primarily define as an unemployment rate 20 percent above the national average. With today’s strong economy, that could include areas with unemployment rates of under 5 percent – a rate normally considered to be full employment. December 2018 data from the Department of Labor announced that job openings reached 7.3 million and that just under 6.3 million Americans were unemployed.

USDA’s proposal would help ensure that work provisions are waived only when necessary, encouraging states to renew their focus on helping SNAP participants to find a path to self-sufficiency. In a recent letter to the nation’s governors … Secretary Perdue explained, “These waivers weaken states’ ability to move the ABAWD population to long-term self-sufficiency because they do not require ABAWDs to engage in work and work training.”

USDA continues to encourage all interested parties to provide input on the proposed rule. The comment period opened on February 1 and closes on April 2…

March 28, 2019: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “USDA Approves Disaster SNAP, School Meals Waiver for Nebraska Disaster Areas”. From the press release:

Low-income Nebraskans recovering from recent flooding could be eligible for food benefits through the Disaster SNAP (D-SNAP) program approved today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The department also approved the state’s request for temporary flexibility in meeting school lunch meal pattern requirements.

Households who may not normally be eligible under regular SNAP rules may qualify for D-SNAP, if they meet the disaster income limits and have qualifying disaster-related expenses.

“USDA is committed to helping Nebraskans get back on their feet in whatever capacity we can,” Food Nutrition Consumer Services Acting Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps said. “The D-SNAP program is an important step forward to help flood impacted families get food on the table.”

D-SNAP eligible households in the affected areas will recieve one month of benefits, equivalent to the maximum amount of benefits, equivalent to the maximum amout of benefits normally issued to a SNAP household of their size, to meet their food needs. To be eligible for D-SNAP, a household must live in an identified area, have been affected by the disaster, and meet certain D-SNAP eligibility criteria. Nebraska will share information about D-SNAP operating dates and locations through the local media.

The timing of D-SNAP implementation varies with the unique circumstances of each disasterbut always begins after commercial channels of food distribution have been restored and families are able to purchase and prepare at food at home. Before operating a D-SNAP program, a state must ensure that proper public information, staffing and resources are in place.

The D-SNAP announcement today is part of USDA’s continuing efforts to help Nebraskans cope with the disaster. USDA is also allowing school lunch and breakfast meal pattern flexibility for schools in Nebraska through April 26…

April 3, 2019: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “USDA Announced Food Assistance for Iowa Victims”. From the press release:

To aid Iowa residents impacted by recent flooding, the U.S. Depatment of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the availability of Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits for five western Iowa countries. Households that do not normally qualify for SNAP may be eligible for D-SNAP if they meet certain requirements.

USDA is also providing extended time for current SNAP recipients to seek replacement of food lost due to the disaster. SNAP regulations normally require households to report lost food within 10 days of purchase. However, USDA approved the Iowa Department of Human Services requests to extend this time period so SNAP households have until April 30, 2019 to request replacement benefits.

“As families recover from a disaster like this, putting food on the table should be the least of their concerns,” said Acting Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps. “USDA is dedicated to helping disaster victims get back on their feet by allowing program flexibilities and providing assistance such as D-SNAP.”

D-SNAP will be available to eligible households in Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona, and Woodbury counties.The application period will operate from April 8, 2019, through April 16, 2019. Operations will be closed during the weekend.

D-SNAP eligible households in the affected areas will receive one month of benefits, equivalent to the maximum amount of benefits normally issued to a SNAP household of their size, to meet their food needs. To be eligible for SNAP, a household must live in an identified disaster area, have been affected by the disaster, and meet certain D-SNAP eligibility criteria. Ongoing households that lived in any of the five counties approved for D-SNAP operations may request disaster supplements on an individual basis via signed affidavit attesting to their disaster lossed.

The timing of D-SNAP implementation varies with the unique circumstances of each disaster but always begins after commercial channels of food distribution are restored and families are able to purchase and prepare food at home. Before operating a D-SNAP program, a state must ensure that proper public information, staffing and resources are in place…

April 12. 2020: CBS Minnesota posted an article titled: “Waite Park Millionaire Goes On Food Stamps To Show Loopholes”. It was written by Pat Kessler. From the article:

Top Democrats are pushing back against a wealthy man who knowingly took food stamps to prove the program has too many loopholes.

State House Republicans are advancing a bill to tighten up who’s eligible for the food benefits. But it’s causing a lot of anger from supporters who say it’s oresenting an unfair picture of who gets hungry in Minnesota.

Half a million low-income Minnesotans get benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program every year. But a millionaire from Waite Park told lawmakers he was able to get food stamps, too.

Rob Undersander says he has had little income on paper, but $1 million in property and retirment accounts. But he applied for food stamps and go them…

…Food stamps are based on income only. But a new bill would change that to also include assets like property and retirement accounts.

“He fenagled the system,” Gov. Mark Dayton said.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said there’s not widespread waste in the program. And the millionaire oughta be ashamed.

“One person can game the system. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of people that are on the program and they find the one person who figure out how to game the system,” Dayton said.

Nearly half a million Minnesotans recieve food stamp benefits, and about 69 percent of them are families with children. And 33 percent are seniors or disabled…

…The Minnesota millionaire says he recieved about $300 a month in food stamps over 19 months. The average food stamp recipient gets about $125 a month. That’s about $1.40 per meal.

Upstander says he donated the amount he received in food stamps to his church, to chairty and to food shelves.

April 18, 2019: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “USDA Launches SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot”. From the press release:

For the first time, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants will be able to select and pay for groceries online, during a two-year test (pilot) launched today in New York State. In making the announcement, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue highlighted online purchasing’s potential, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) commitment to program integrity by looking carefully at the pilot. Lessons learned from this pilot are expected to inform future efforts to expand online purchasing in SNAP…

…The system is developed to allow online purchasing only by SNAP households with electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards issued by New York for this start of the online pilot project. Online retailers will be limited to delivery in the pilot areas in New York only. Information regarding expansion will be available after this launch is determined successful and other pilot states indicate their readiness to implement.

Amazon and Walmart will participate in the initial pilot launch today with ShopRite joining early next week. ShopRite and Amazon are providing service to the New York City area and Walmart is providing online service in update New York locations. Additional retailers are slated to participate in the pilot in coming months. The pilot will eventually expand to other areas of New York as well as Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.

The pilot will test both online and payment. SNAP participants will be able to use their benefits eligible food items, but will not be able to use SNAP benefits to pay for service or delivery charges….

…The 2014 Farm Bill authorized USDA to conduct and evaluate a pilot for online purchasing prior to national implementation. The pilot phase is intended to ensure online transactions are processed safely and securely. USDA anticipates all eligible and interested retailers who can meet the requirements to process online SNAP transactions will eventually be able to take part, though the timeline is dependent on the progress of the pilot and any regulations which may need to be issued…

May 1, 2019: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “USDA Urges States to Require Child Support Cooperation through SNAP”. From the press release:

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a memorandum to state agencies…encouraging them to require Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants to cooperate with child support programs…

…Child support programs serve more than 15 million children each year, lifting more than one million people out of poverty entirely and moving millions more children closer to escaping poverty. It has a record of effectiveness in increasing the likelihood of establishing paternity, securing a support order, and collecting support. But many single-parent families recieve little or no child support at all, undermining their well-being and increasing their reliance on government programs.

USDA views the option to establish SNAP child support cooperation requirements as a good strategy to promote responsibility among both non-custodial and custodial parents to provide more children with the support they deserve. The memorandum lays out available approaches to do so under current rules and offers technical assistance to pursue and implement them effectively. Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Acting Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps also wrote to Health and Human Services Secretaries and Commissioners… in each of the 50 states, DC, Guam and the Virgin Islands, encouraging adoption of these policies…

June 21, 2019: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “USDA Announces Approval of D-SNAP for Arkansas Disaster Areas”. From the press release:

Arkansas residents recovering from recent major flooding in 12 counties could be eligible for a helping hand from USDA’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) announced today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Households who are not normally eligible under regular SNAP rules may qualify for D-SNAP if they meet the disaster income limits and have qualifying disaster-related expenses…

…The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) will operate D-SNAP to serve households impacted in the following 12 counties: Arkansas, Conway, Crawford, Desha, Faulkner, Jefferson, Logan, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Sebastian, and Yell. Information about D-SNAP dates and locations will be shared by DHS through the local media.

D-SNAP-eligible households in the affected area will recieve one month of benefits, equal to the maximum benefit amount normally issued to a SNAP household of their size, to meet their food and nutrition needs as they settle back home following the disaster. To be eligible for D-SNAP, a household must live in a Presidentially-declared disaster area, have been affected by the disaster, and meet certain D-SNAP eligibility critera.

The timing of D-SNAP varies with the unique circumstances of each disaster, but always begins after commercial channels of food distribution have been restored and families are able to purchase food and prepare it at home. Before operating a D-SNAP, a state must ensure proper public information, staffing and resources are in place. USDA has already approved for their household size. This supplement makes the SNAP benefits of households already participating in the program consistent with those of new households participating in D-SNAP.

July 10, 2019: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “USDA Approves New Phase of Temporary Puerto Rico Nutrition Assistance to Support Disaster Recovery”. From the press release:

…Puerto Rico residents continuing to recover from 2017’s hurricanes could be eligible for increased nutrition assistance funded by Congress and providd through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This temporary assistance will be distributed through Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) beginning as early as August. NAP is administered by USDA and is operated by the Commonwealth’s Department of the Family.

The new grant reflects active collaboration over the last month between USDA and Puerto Rico to implement the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019, signed by the President on June 6. Since then, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) staff has been available on-site to help Puerto Rico amend its nutrition assistance plan, as required to distribute NAP funding. On July 2, Puerto Rico officials completed changes outlining how they will deliver disaster benefits and protect integrity. USDA’s approval today will launch $600 million in new benefits to help Puerto Rico residents feed their families, as the recovery continues…

…Unlike the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), NAP is a block grant with a set amount of funding annually, and the program must operate within that amount. The funding announced today will augment the assistance available through NAP, in recognition of the sustaind economic disruption faced by the island. Puerto Rico plans to provide a supplemental benefit to all households that participate in NAP over the next 12 months…

July 23, 2019: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “USDA Proposes to Close SNAP Automatic Eligibility Loophole”. From the press release:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today proposed closing a loophole that allows states to make participants receiving minimal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits automatically eligible to participate in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The proposed rule published today in the Federal Register would limit SNAP/TANF automatic eligibility to households that receive substantial, ongoing TANF-funded benefits aimed at helping families move toward self-sufficiency. The proposed rule would fix a loophole that has expanded SNAP recipients in some states to include people who receive assistance when they clearly don’t need it. In fact, the depth of this specific flexibility has become so egregious that a millionaire living in Minnesota successfully enrolled in the program simply to highlight the waste of taxpayer money. This proposal gives USDA the ability to save billions of dollars, ensuring nutrition assistance programs are delivered with consistency and integrity to those most in need…

…Currently, benefits may be as minimal as simply providing a household with an informational brochure describing social services or access to hotline numbers. These nominal benefits are often given without conducting a robust eligibility determination. Congress has established clear eligibility standards. It is USDA’s responsibility to make sure those who receive benefits are eligible.

To confer automatic eligibility for SNAP under the proposal, a household must recieve TANF-funded or non-cash benefits valued at a minimum of $50 per month for at least 6 months. In addition, non-cash benefits that could convey automatic eligibility would be restricted to subsidized employment, work supports, or childcare. By establishing clear standards and requiring that benefits be ongoing and substantial, the proposal will ensure SNAP benefits go toward Americans most in need…

July 24, 2019: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted news titled: “Proposed Rule: Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the SNAP program”. From the news:

Section 5(a) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, as amended, provides that households in which each member receives benefits under a state program funded under part A of Title IV of the Social Security Act (SSA) (also known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grants) shall be categorically eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Currently, SNAP regulations broadly interpret “benefits” to mean cash assistance and non-cash or in-kind benefits or services from any TANF –funded program.

In operation, this has allowed categorical eligibility for SNAP to be conferred on households  based on receipt of minimal benefits issued by TANF-funded programs which may not conduct a robust eligibility determination and do not meaningfully move families toward self-sufficiency. The Food and Nutrition Act has clear parameters regarding the income and resource limits that SNAP households must meet, and categorical eligibility is intended to apply only when the conferring program has properly determined eligibility. Extending categorical eligibility to participants who have not been screened for eligibility compromises program integrity and reduces public confidence that benefits are being provided to eligible households.

Therefore, the Department proposes updating the regulations to refine categorical eligibility requirements based on receipt of TANF benefits. Specifically, the Department proposes: (1) to define “benefits” for categorical eligibility to mean ongoing and substantial benefits; and (2) to limit the types of non-cash TANF benefits conferring categorical eligibility to those that focus on subsidized employment, work supports and childcare. The proposed rule would also require state agencies to inform FNS of all non-cash TANF benefits that confer categorical eligibility.

Therefore, the Department proposes updating the regulations to refine categorical eligibility requirements based on receipt of TANF benefits. Specifically, the Department proposes: (1) to define “benefits” for categorical eligibility to mean ongoing and substantial benefits; and (2) to limit the types of non-cash TANF benefits conferring categorical eligibility to those that focus on subsidized employment, work supports and childcare. The proposed rule would also require state agencies to inform FNS of all non-cash TANF benefits that confer categorical eligibility.

The proposed revisions would create a clearer and more consistent nationwide policy that ensures categorical eligibility is extended only to households that have sufficiently demonstrated eligibility by qualifying for ongoing and substantial benefits from TANF-funded programs designed to assist households and move them towards self-sufficiency. In addition, the revisions would help ensure that receipt of nominal, one-time benefits or services do not confer categorical eligibility and would address program integrity issues that have surfaced since the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 changed the programs whose benefits confer categorical eligibility. The Department believes these revisions will maintain categorical eligibility’s dual purpose of streamlining program administration while ensuring that SNAP benefits are targeted to the appropriate households.

September 23, 2020: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted new guidance titled: “Updated School Meal Guidance”. From the guidance:

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is issuing a suite of memoranda providing updated guidance for operators in the child nutrition programs (CNPs), including the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Special Milk Program for Children, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program. These new memoranda do not include additional requirements, but are intended to help program operators implement recent regulatory changes and provide clarification to existing policies and regulations.

This guidance includes:

  • Questions and Answers on the Final Rule Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements: This memorandum provides Questions and Answers on the final rule Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements (83 FR 63775, December 12, 2018), which provides menu planning flexibilities in the CNPs. These flexibilities went into effect July 1, 2019, for the 2019-202 school year.
  • Meal Requirements under the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program: Questions and Answers for Program Operators: This memorandum includes questions and answers updated to incorporate changes codified by two final rules: (1) Child and Adult Care Food Program: Meal Pattern Revisions Related to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (81 CFR 24348, published April 25, 2016) and (2) Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements (83 FR 63775, December 12, 2018). This document also includes updated crediting questions and a new resources section. Outdated references, citations, and questions have been removed throughout the document, and minor edits were made to clarify content.
  • Clarification on the Milk and Water Requirements in the School Meal Programs: This updated memorandum clarifies regulations that water made available to students in the NSLP and SBP shall not compete with the milk requirement. While water must be made available, schools must not directly or indirectly restrict the sale or marketing of fluid milk.
  • Smoothies Offered in the Child Nutrition Programs: This updated memorandum clarifies juice and yogurt allowances based on the childcare and preschool meal pattern updates and incorporates the meal pattern flexibilities related to flavored milk. This memorandum also changes the policy for commercially prepared smoothies. Commercially prepared smoothies can now contribute to the meat/meat alternate, fruit, vegetable, and milk components of the Federal meal requirements for all CNPs.
  • Salad Bars in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program: This memorandum includes policy changes and general updates to outdated resources/website links and updated questions and answers. This memorandum provides state agencies with information on how salad bars can effectively improve the service of reimbursable meals and includes information on portion size, location of the salad bar, production records, and food safety…

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 utility 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..

October 11, 2019: President Donald Trump issued a proclamation titled: “Presidential Proclamation on National School Lunch Week, 2019”. From the proclamation:

During National School Lunch Week, we recognize the school lunch programs across our country that nourish our children with nutritious, American-grown food that they need to learn in the classroom and work toward bright futures. By ensuring all students have access to well-balanced meals, we can help our Nation’s youth maintain healthy lifestyles and help them achieve success in the classroom and beyond.

Established in 1946, the National School Lunch Program provides low-cost or free lunches to more than 29 million children in nearly 100,000 public and residential child-care institutions across our country. Since its creation, the number of students served by the program has quadrupled, and school cafeterias now serve nearly 5 billion lunches annually.  This successful Federal, State, and local partnership would not be possible without the assistance of thousands of food service professionals, school administrators, community members, and parents. As a nation, we are grateful for those who go above and beyond to ensure all children are able to focus on their education and development instead of worrying about their next lunch.

America’s farmers, ranchers, and producers also play a role in ensuring our children’s plates are filled with healthy, domestically sourced foods. This year, my Administration awarded a record high of more than $9 million in Farm to School Program grants, increasing access to local food and strengthening links to agriculture for more than 3.2 million children in 42 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Through our efforts to increase the amount of local food in our country’s schools, we are promoting the success of both our farmers and ranchers and our Nation’s children.

To emphasize the importance of the National School Lunch Program to our youth’s nutrition, the Congress, by joint resolution of October 9, 1962 (Public Law 87–780), has designated the week beginning on the second Sunday in October each year as “National School Lunch Week” and has requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this week.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 13 through October 19, 2019, as National School Lunch Week. I call upon all Americans to join the countless individuals who administer the National School Lunch Program in activities that support and promote awareness of the health and well-being of our Nation’s children…

October 15, 2019: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA posted a press release titled: “USDA Recognizes Hard-Working School Meals Professionals, Empowers Them to Do Right in School Lunchrooms”. From the press release:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today issued the following statement in support of President Donald J. Trump’s National School Lunch Week Proclamation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) celebrates food service professionals, school leaders, as well as the farmers, ranchers, and producers who grow the delicious, healthful, American-grown foods that kids enjoy every day in school lunches…

…To help give school food workers the tools they need to do their jobs well with world-class customer service, USDA is offering additional flexibilities for serving school meals, as announced this month in new guidance provided to schools. These bring new opportunities to allow commercially produced smoothies to be included in school meals, provide more guidance on serving milk options, and allow for healthier, more innovative foods to be incorporated into meal plans. Schools are also now empowered with more resources to offer salad bars and better positioned to teach good eating habits to our nation’s children.

The flexibilities provided to school foodservice professionals recently expand on those USDA gave schools last December, when the department provided more options around milk, whole grains, and sodium. USDA continues to encourage schools to meet their children’s needs and tastes in these areas, while helping schools meet the recommended MyPlate dairy needs in their students’ diets.

USDA is also promoting Farm to School initiatives. This year’s Farm to School grants are the biggest ever awarded – with more than $9 million supporting programs across 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico – and will reach more than 3.2 million children in over 5,400 schools. These grants increase the amount of local food in America’s schools, while helping young people foster healthy eating habits. They also create new economic opportunities for local farmers, ranchers, and producers and can inspire children to consider future careers in agriculture…

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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…

Conclusion

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: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “USDA Restores Original Intent of SNAP: A Second Chance, Not A Way of Life”. From the press release:

At the direction of President Donald J. Trump, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced a final rule to move able-bodied recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) toward self-sufficiency and into employment. The rule restores the system to what Congress intended: assistance through difficult times, not a way of life.

“Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch. Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream. We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand,” said Secretary Perdue. “Now, in the midst of the strongest economy in a generation, we need everyone who can work, to work. This rule lays the groundwork for the expectation that able-bodied Americans re-enter the workforce where there are currently more job openings than people to fill them.”…

…The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) final rule promotes work for able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 49 without dependents and does not apply to children and their parents, those over 50 years old including the elderly, those with a disability, or pregnant women.

Long-standing SNAP statute limits these adults to three months of benefits in a three-year period – unless they work or participate in work training for at least 20 hours per week. The law allows states to apply for waivers of this time limit due to economic conditions, but prior to the rule, counties with an unemployment rate as low as 2.5% were included in waived areas. Under USDA’s rule, states retain their statutory flexibility to waive the time-limit in areas of high unemployment and to exempt a percentage of their ABAWD caseload. Even when working, those who qualify from an income perspective, will still receive their SNAP benefits.

There are multiple ways for individuals to engage and maintain their SNAP benefits, from working, to preparing for work, and volunteering. States have a responsibility to assess individuals as work-capable and must renew their focus on helping SNAP participants to find a path to self-sufficiency. There are a number of tools to assist with challenges. For example, states are provided funding to operate Employment and Training programs, which can provide everything from job training to necessary work supports, such as boots, uniforms, and transit subsidies. States also have access to programs and services provided by other Federal agencies, state and county governments, and local service providers…

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 6, 2019: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “With Record Low Unemployment, USDA Finalizes Rule to Promote Work”. From the press release:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue released the following statement regarding the latest jobs report released today by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The jobs report shows the economy added 266,000 new jobs in November with an unemployment rate of 3.5%, which remains at a record 50 year low. Earlier this week, at the direction of President Donald J. Trump, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a rule to help move more able-bodied recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) towards self-sufficiency and into employment. The rule restores the system to what Congress intended: assistance through difficult times, not a way of life.

Today’s jobs report is further proof that now in the midst of the strongest economy in a generation, we need everyone who can work, to work. To that end, USDA is laying the groundwork for the expectation that able-bodied Americans re-enter the workforce where there are currently more job openings than people to fill them,” said Secretary Perdue. “Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch. Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream. We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand.”…

…The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) final rule promotes work for able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 49 without dependents and does not apply to children and their parents, those over 50 years old including the elderly, those with a disability, or pregnant women.

Long-standing SNAP statute limits these adults to three months of benefits in a three-year period – unless they work or participate in work training for at least 20 hours per week. The law allows states to apply for waivers of this time limit due to economic conditions, but prior to the rule, counties with an unemployment rate as low as 2.5% were included in waived areas. Under USDA’s rule, states retain their statutory flexibility to waive the time-limit in areas of high unemployment and to exempt a percentage of their ABAWD caseload. Even when working, those who qualify from an income perspective, will still receive their SNAP benefits.

There are multiple ways for individuals to engage and maintain their SNAP benefits, from working, to preparing for work, and volunteering. States have a responsibility to assess individuals as work-capable and must renew their focus on helping SNAP participants to find a path to self-sufficiency. There are a number of tools to assist with challenges. For example, states are provided funding to operate Employment and Training programs, which can provide everything from job training to necessary work supports, such as boots, uniforms, and transit subsidies. States also have access to programs and services provided by other Federal agencies, state and county governments, and local service providers.

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 12, 2019: The Guardian posted an article titled: “‘I won’t be able to have healthy food’: millions of Americans to lose lifeline as Trump cuts food stamps”. It was written by Michael Sainato. From the article:

…On 5 December, the United States Department of Agriculture announced the finalization of a new rule that will limit state waivers of federal work requirements for “able-bodied” individuals between the ages of 18 through 49 without dependents.

Currently without a waiver, these individuals cannot recieve Snap benefits longer than three months in a three-year period. States have been able to grant waivers to these requirements in regions with high unemployment or insufficient available jobs. The rule is estimated to revoke Snap benefits from 668,000 individuals in the US.

The term “able-bodied” is vague, subject to interpretation of who fits into the requirements as determined by state agencies.

The rule is one of three being pushed by the Trump administration, which is also looking to enact capped income levels for Snap benefits eligibility to twice the poverty level, about $50,000 a year for a family of four. The rule would also prevent households with more than $2,250 in assets, or $3,500 for a household with a disabled adult, from recieving food assistance benefits. Nearly 3 million Americans are expectedto lose Snap benefits as a result of this rle.

A third rule would cut $4.5 billion from the Snap program over five years, affecting one in five families receiving benefits.

The rules have faced scrutiny for revoking or reducing benefits for millions of Americans struggling with poverty, including eliminating access to free or reduced school lunch meals to 500,000 children.

But many disabled or sick Americans already struggle with obtaining Snap benefits or maintaining them under current requirements. Their situation, already tough, is now going to get worse…

December 13, 2019: FactCheck.Org posted a fact check titled: “Meme Makes Flawed Obama, Trump Comparison”. From the fact check:

The most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that total nonfarm employment has increased by over 6.5 million, or 4.5%, from when Trump took office in January 2017 through November 2019. And while the unemployment rate was 4.7% at the beginning of Trump’s term, it fell to 3.5% as of November — a decrease of 1.2 percentage points.

It’s true that the BEA did initially estimate that real GDP in the first quarter of 2019 increased at an annualized rate of 3.2% — the figure used in the meme. But the BEA later revised its estimate to 3.1% growth in that quarter, and it most recently estimated that real GDP grew at an annualized rate of 2.1% in the third quarter of this year.

On an annual basis, however, GDP growth has not reached above 3% during Trump’s term, despite his repeated promises of 4% to 6% growth per year. Real GDP was 2.9 percent higher in 2018 than it was in 2017, and it was 2.4 percent higher in 2017 than it was in 2016. The average annual increase in Trump’s first two years has been 2.6%…

The USDA press release, which was posted on December 6, 2019, claimed:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue released the following statement regarding the latest jobs report released today by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The jobs report shows the economy added 266,000 new jobs in November with an unemployment rate of 3.5%, which remains at a record 50 year low.

The number – 3.5% in November of 2019, was a lie. The Fact Check points out that the Bureau of Economic Analysis “most recently estimated that the real GDP grew at an anualized rate of 2.1% in the third quarter of this year.”

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…

…Food insecurity is linked to worse health outcomes, including poor mental health, high blood pressure and diabetes, with children particularly vulnerable….

…”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.”…

Here is a link to the complaint. Here is a link to the motion for a preliminary injunction.

January 16, 2020: District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine posted a press release titled: “AG Racine Leads Multistate Lawsuit to Stop Trump Administration From Eliminating Food Assistance for Nearly 700,000 Struggling Americans”. From the press release:

Attorney General Karl A. Racine, along with New York State Attorney General Letitia James, today led a group of 20 Attorneys General and New York City in a lawsuit to stop the Trump administration from 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. Should the rule take effect in April 2020, more than 13,000 District residents struggling to find work would be effectively cut off from vital nutrition assistance. AG Racine and his 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.

“President Trump’s unlawful changes to the SNAP rule will strip nutrition assistance from tens of thousands of struggling District residents, putting their health at risk while driving up District healthcare costs and needlessly hampering our economy,” said AG Racine. “A Republican-led Congress rejected these changes on a bipartisan basis in 2018, recognizing they do not encourage work—they just punish vulnerable people struggling to find jobs. We are bringing this lawsuit to protect SNAP recipients nationwide and to check an administration that is attempting another end-run around Congress to advance its heartless agenda.”

SNAP has served as the country’s primary response to hunger since 1977, and a critical part of federal and state efforts to help lift people out of poverty. The program provides access to nutrition for millions of Americans with limited incomes who would otherwise struggle with food insecurity. In Fiscal Year 2019, on average, approximately 110,000 District residents received SNAP benefits each month. While the federal government pays the full cost of SNAP benefits, it shares the costs of administering the program on a 50-50 basis with the states, 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 benefits for unemployed individuals aged 18 to 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 ABAWDs 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 also were 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 carry over unused exemptions. It has reauthorized the statute four times without limiting states’ discretion over these matters. House Republicans considered adding restrictions on waivers and carryovers in the 2018 Farm Bill, but a bipartisan coalition expressly rejected them in the final legislation.

Shortly after President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law, USDA announced a proposed rule seeking changes almost identical to those Congress rejected. AG Racine led a multistate comment opposing the proposal. 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 initially proposed. The changes create significant obstacles for the District, making it unlikely to qualify for future waivers. Should the rule take effect, up to 90 percent of the District’s 14,500 ABAWDs will lose benefits after three months.

In the lawsuit, the states collectively argue that the administration’s rule:

  • 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 USDA’s 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 a place to live. Their purchasing power will decrease, harming state economies. As 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 APA requires agencies to offer a reasoned explanation for changing long-held policies and address why the facts and circumstances supporting the prior policy should be disregarded. For over two decades, USDA has accepted Congress’s 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 Administrative Procedure Act (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. USDA broke from this process by issuing a final rule that diverged from its proposed rule in significant 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.

AGs Racine and James are co-leading this coalition joined by Attorneys General from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia, along with the City of New York. The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court for the 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.

The complaint as filed is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-01/SNAP-Complaint-Updated.pdf

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 17, 2020: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “USDA Announces School and Summer Meals Reforms”. From the press release:

Delivering on his promise to act on feedback from dietary professionals, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced two proposals today that will put local school and summer food service operators back in the driver’s seat of their programs, because they know their children best. Under the school meals proposed rule, school nutrition professionals have more flexibility to serve appetizing and healthy meals that appeal to their students’ preferences and subsequently reduce food waste. The proposed rule also encourages state and local operators to focus resources on feeding children rather than administrative paperwork. These improvements build on the 2018 reforms that preserve strong nutrition standards while providing schools the additional flexibilities they need to best serve America’s students.

“Schools and school districts continue to tell us that there is still too much food waste and that more common-sense flexibility is needed to provide students nutritious and appetizing meals. We listened and now we’re getting to work,” said Secretary Perdue. “Our proposed changes empower schools to give their very best to our children nationwide and have the potential to benefit nearly 100,000 schools and institutions that feed 30 million children each school day through USDA’s school meal programs. Providing children with wholesome, nutritious food is part of our motto at USDA, which is to ‘do right and feed everyone.’”

Background:

The school meals proposed rule would continue to ensure children receive wholesome, tasty meals that provide the nutrition they need to grow and thrive, while offering increased flexibilities for local school districts to serve children food they will want to eat, by:

  • Allowing local schools to offer more vegetable varieties, while keeping plenty of veggies in each meal;
  • Making it easier for schools to offer school lunch entrees for a la carte purchase, thereby reducing food waste;
  • Providing schools options to customize meal patterns to best serve children in different grades or smaller schools who eat together; 
  • Supporting a more customized school breakfast environment by letting schools adjust fruit servings and making it simpler to offer meats/meat alternates, ultimately encouraging breakfast options outside the cafeteria so students can start their day with a healthy breakfast; and
  • Shifting to a performance-focused administrative review process that is less burdensome and time consuming, which would increase collaboration with operators to improve program integrity.

USDA also proposed another rule with customer-focused reforms to the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which serves more than 2.6 million children during the summer months, when they are at higher risk of food insecurity and poor nutrition because they do not have access to school meals. The summer feeding ruleoffers operators more local control to better serve children by: 

  • Providing more flexibilities in choosing meal offerings, meal service times, and allowing children to take certain nonperishable food items offsite;
  • Granting tested and proven flexibilities that make it easier for sponsors and sites to participate by reducing paperwork and streamlining the application process for high-performing, experienced operators;
  • Balancing program integrity and flexibility with stronger monitoring to help sponsors maximize their resources; and
  • Clarifying performance standards and eligibility requirements for sites…

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:

An effort by the Trump administration to “restore the dignity of work” means tens of thousands of Minnesotans could see cuts or a total loss of federal food-stamp benefits.

In 2019, about 376,000 Minnesotans received help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, that’s commonly referred to as food stamps. It cost about $516 million for Minnesota to administer that aid and nearly all the money came from the federal government.

“Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in December. “We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand, but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand.”

State officials and hunger advocates worry the pending changes will hurt some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. Roughly 38,000 recipients could lose their food stamps altogether and 150,000 could see reductions in their monthly aid.

Hunger is not just a metro problem. Some of the Minnesota counties with the highest percentage of residents receiving food stamps are in parts of rural Minnesota where finding reliable work remains difficult for many…

The new rules for the federal food-stamp program include three significant changes that will impact who qualifies and how much aid they receive. There are currently different eligibility rules for parents and individuals without children.

States will be required to thoroughly examine applicants’ assets, not just their incomes. States had been given a waiver for this in the past because it was so time-consuming.

Federal rules say families with more than about $3,000 in assets — such as equity in a home or a retirement account — could risk losing benefits. State officials estimate about 35,000 Minnesotans could lose benefits because of this change.

Childless adults without physical or mental disabilities will no longer be able to receive food stamps for more than three months out of a three-year period without working, volunteering or training for a job.

There had been a waiver program for counties with high unemployment or other exacerbating circumstances, but it’s being modified and the number of Minnesota counties that qualify will shrink from more than two dozen to four…

…About 2,000 Minnesotans are expected to lose food assistance because of this change. Minnesota is one of 15 states suing to stop the change.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to change how utility costs, such as heat and water bills, will be considered when calculating an applicant’s income for food-stamp eligibility.

In the past, Minnesotans could deduct nearly $500 a month from their incomes for utility bills. The change will set a federal rate that is the same for all states, so Minnesotans can deduct as much as Floridians…

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…

A copy of the decision is available here.

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 integrity 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…

March 2, 2020: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary of Food, Nutrition, and Comsumer Services, Brandon Lipps, sent a letter to State Commissioners. The letter was titled: “SNAP E&T Letter to State Commissioners”. From the letter:

The letter starts with a story about someone named “Ken”. There is no way to verify that the story is true. It sounds like propaganda intended to persuade State Commissioners believe that its ok to take away SNAP benefits from eligible people. Things worked out just fine for “Ken”, who somehow found employment after having his access to food taken away from him.

…Our team at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been relentless in notifying, educating, and equipping you to engage more SNAP participants as they transition to work. Some of you have been proactive leaders in improving your E&T program. However, not all states have taken action. Today, I call on you to leverage the opportunity afforded to us by the longest economic expansion in U.S. history to get to work on getting people to work.

As a reminder, Congress has emphasized its belief in the value of E&T by providing that every state receive Federal funds to operate an E&T program. Additionally, Congress has provided unlimited funds to match, dollar for dollar, any reimbursable spending on E&T by states or their providers. This includes not only certain administrative and programmatic expenses, but also spending on transportation, childcare, and other support services that are necessary to participate in E&T.

Expanding E&T opportunities for SNAP recipients in your state must be a top priority. The best way to immediately increase your capacity in your state is to leverage the funding and expertise of existing providers, who are already effectively connecting SNAP recipients to employment. Our team at USDA is ready to assist you in expanding your programs to meet the needs of your SNAP recipients. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me or any of my colleagues at the Food ;and Nutrition Service…

The end of the letter describes “Ken” as a “hope dealer”…. whatever that is.

March 5, 2020: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “USDA Improving Services to Provide More SNAP Participants the Dignity of Work”. From the press release:

In light of President Trump’s historic economic expansion – with a 3.6% unemployment rate and 6.4 million job openings across the nation – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced a proposed rule that will strengthen the way states serve SNAP recipients through Employment and Training.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants have exclusive access to training and support services to help them enter or move up in the workforce. The proposed rule, Employment and Training Opportunities in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, makes a wide range of enhancements to these services to empower more SNAP participants to gain the skills, training, or work experience they need to move toward – and into – employment.

“We’ve seen the results and believe work increases the potential for people to have a life full of dignity, respect and hope. Our safety net programs like SNAP were never meant to be for long-term use. Government dependency has never been part of the American dream. This proposed rule will enhance the opportunities SNAP participants have to gain the skills they need to provide for their families and contribute to their communities,” said Secretary Sonny Perdue. “President Trump has unleashed a booming economy and thriving job market that needs more workers to fill the millions of job openings. We aim to prepare more Americans to re-enter the workforce so they too can experience the benefits of a prosperous economy.”

In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress provided additional tools for USDA and state agencies to bolster the quality of SNAP Employment and Training (SNAP E&T) programs. Today’s proposed changes promote evidence-based practices and hold states accountable for providing E&T services that move participants towards work. The changes maintain the flexibilities providers need to design programs that fit the needs of local communities.

“USDA has made it clear that SNAP E&T is a priority for this Administration. The Secretary and I have seen lives changed by E&T programs and witnessed the hope provided when poverty is overcome by work,” said Deputy Under Secretary of Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Brandon Lipps. “While SNAP fills an immediate need, SNAP E&T leads to the transformational power of work.”

Today’s proposed rule is just one of many ways USDA is partnering with and empowering states to improve their SNAP E&T programs. USDA provides over $100 million each year for states to operate their E&T programs. If a state invests their own money – or includes outside funding from any non-federal source – to expand and enhance their E&T programs, the federal government will match those funds, dollar for dollar, without limit. Deputy Under Secretary Lipps recently highlighted the importance and opportunity to expand E&T by directly calling on states to take action. In addition, USDA:

  • Actively identifies successful employment and training providers in every state who are ready and willing to service SNAP participants as they seek employment. These providers can qualify for matching federal dollars, providing an immediate increase in a state’s E&T capacity.
  • Operates SNAP to Skills, which provides intensive assistance and coaching to states and their partners on building robust E&T programs. This year, 7 states – Oregon, Colorado, Louisiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island – join the 22 other states who have participated since the program’s launch in 2015.
  • Provides trainings, such as the SNAP E&T State Institutes and Learning Academies, to develop expertise in administering SNAP E&T among individuals, partner organizations, and state agencies across the country.
  • Will host the first ever SNAP E&T National Forum this fall in St. Louis, MO. The forum will take place October 13-14, 2020, and registration will open later this month.

March 6, 2020: Senator Jeff Merkley (Democrat – Oregon) posted a press release titled: “Merkley Announces Reinstatement of Critical Child Food Assistance Program in Oregon”. From the press release:

Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will once again administer a critical program that has helped fight hunger during summer months among children in Oregon, after providing no justification for failing to provide the support last summer.

Senator Merkley used his position as the top Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the USDA to require the agency to reinstate the program in Oregon for the next three years.

“Every child in Oregon – regardless of the color of their skin, the town they live in, or where their parents work – deserves nutritious meals all year long,” said Merkley. “But when schools close for the summer, tens of thousands of families struggle to keep food on the table for their kids. I fought to push USDA to reverse course on their senseless limits to this program. I’m glad to be able to announce today that Oregon’s children in need will once again have access to nutritious meals through this program next summer.”

“One in five children in Oregon are food insecure,” said Susannah Morgan, CEO of Oregon Food Bank. “Oregon Food Bank is thrilled that the proven, effective Summer EBT program will once again be available to fight hunger when school is out.”

Senator Merkley has been a strong proponent of the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program since it was founded in 2011. The program, which gives families with children additional resources to buy food throughout the summer, has helped almost 72,000 children in 45,105 households across 27 of Oregon’s 36 counties.

March 7, 2020: U.S. Department of Agriculture posted a press release titled: “USDA Makes It Easier, Safer to Feed Children in California Amid Coronavirus Outbreak”. From the press release:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved a request from California to allow meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus. These meals are available at no cost to low-income children – and are not required to be served in a group setting – to ensure kids receive nutritious meals while schools are temporarily closed.

“USDA stands with the people of California as a part of a federal-wide coordinated response,” said Brandon Lipps, Deputy Under Secretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. “The flexibility provided by the waiver approved today will help ensure that our children get wholesome meals, safeguarding their health during times of need.”

The waiver announced today is effective immediately and will continue through June 30, 2020. USDA stands ready to provide additional assistance to the people of California and other areas impacted by the coronavirus as allowed by law and in coordination with the much larger government-wide response.

All Food and Nutrition Service programs – including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs – have flexibilities and contingencies built-in to allow them to respond to on-the-ground realities in the event of a disaster or emergency situation. For more information about the coronavirus response across USDA, please visit: www.usda.gov/coronavirus

March 8, 2020: ABC News posted an article titled: “Washington state legislature approves bill to get more free meals into schools”. It was written by Ivan Perira. From the article:

Washington state students will soon have more access to free meals at school.

Last week, the state’s senate passed legislation known as the “Hunger-Free Schools,” which would give schools federal funding for breakfast and lunch programs if it has a high percentage of students that meet the requirements of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).

State Rep. Marcus Riccelli, who introduced the bill in the Washington House of Representatives, said several Washington schools have tried to qualify but weren’t successful. The bill would direct the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to examine participation plans, determine which ones would qualify for CEP and require those schools to apply for the federal dollars…

…Riccelli says 15 Washington schools, including three in the Spokane area, his district, would receive the federal funding under the measure. About 7,200 students would receive the free meals, he said.

The “Hunger-Free Schools” bill is one of many similar bills introduced in state legislatures that are aimed at combating lunch shaming in school cafeterias. Some school districts have instated policies that penalize and humiliate students who can’t pay for their meals, such as requiring them to do chores or prohibiting them from extracurricular activities

March 9, 2020: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “USDA Makes It Easier, Safer to Feed Children Amid Washington State Coronavirus Outbreak”. From the press release:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved a request from Washington State to allow meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus. These meals are available at no cost to low-income children, and are not required to be served in a group setting, to ensure kids receive nutritious meals while schools are temporarily closed.

“USDA stands with the people of Washington State as a part of a federal-wide coordinated response,” said Brandon Lipps, Deputy Under Secretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. “The flexibility provided by the waiver approved today will help ensure that our children get wholesome meals, safeguarding their health during times of need.”

The waiver announced today is effective immediately and will continue through June 30, 2020. USDA stands ready to provide additional assistance to the people of Washington State and other areas impacted by the coronavirus as allowed by law and in coordination with the much larger government-wide response.

All Food and Nutrition Service programs – including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs – have flexibilities and contingencies built-in to allow them to respond to on-the-ground realities in the event of a disaster or emergency situation…

March 9, 2020: U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (Democrat – Oregon) posted a press release titled: “Merkley Announces Expansion of Online Food Assistance Pilot Program to Oregon”. From the press release:

Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today announced the expansion of a pilot program that will allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients in Oregon to use their benefits to purchase food online from Amazon and Walmart. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).

Merkley serves as the top Democrat on the funding subcommittee that oversees USDA.

“For hundreds of thousands of Oregonians, SNAP benefits are the difference between being able to afford food or going to bed hungry,” said Merkley. “But between coordinating transportation, working multiple jobs, and staying home to take care of loved ones, accessing a grocery store can be a big challenge, especially given the lack of full-service grocery stores in so many lower income neighborhoods. This pilot program will test an innovative way to overcome that problem, so we help more families keep food on their tables.”

Oregon is the twelfth hungriest state in America, with over 600,000 SNAP recipients and countless food deserts – urban areas where residents have to travel over a mile to access a grocery store, or rural areas where residents have to travel over 10 miles – many of which are located in low-income and rural communities.

FNS’ pilot program, which is designed to test the feasibility of nationwide online SNAP transactions, was launched in April 2019 in New York.

March 10, 2020: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “Secretary Purdue Announces Proactive Flexibilities to Feed Children When Schools Close”. From the press release:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced proactive flexibilities to allow meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus…

…Background:

During an unexpected school closure, schools can leverage their participation in one of USDA’s summer meal programs to provide meals at no cost to students. Under normal circumstances, those meals must be served in a group setting. However, in a public health emergency, the law allows USDA the authority to waive the group setting meal requirement, which is vital during a social distancing situation.

As always, States may request waivers of other Program requirements, as needed, and those will be considered on a case-by-case basis. States may submit waiver requests immediately by providing their FNS Regional Office with the required waiver information…

…Today’s announcement is effective immediately and will cover efforts triggered by school closings through June 30, 2020. USDA stands ready to provide additional assistance to areas impacted by the coronavirus as part of the much larger government-wide response, in accordance with the law…

March 13, 2020: The United States District Court for the District of Columbia heard the case District of Columbia v Bread for the City. The case was heard by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell. From Judge Howell’s ruling:

In this country of plenty, the federal and state governments work together to ensure that low-income Americans and their families do not go hungry. The largest federal food assistance program that serves as the cornerstone of this joint federal-state effort to reduce hunger—and hunger’s adverse effects on health, educational achievement,and housing security—is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program. A new federal rule poised to go into effect in a few weeks, in April 2020, would dramatically alter the long-standing operations of the SNAP program, placing more stringent requirements on states’ award of SNAP benefits with concomitant, virtually immediate effects on the lives, by the federal government’s estimate, of over one million individuals currently … receiving SNAP benefits.Of those million, nearly 700,000 would lose their benefits. Especially now, as a global pandemic poses widespread health risks,guaranteeing that government officials at both the federal and state levels have flexibility to address the nutritional needs of residents and ensure their well-being through programs like SNAP, is essential.

Nineteen states, the District of Columbia, the City of New York, and three private plaintiffs have moved to enjoin preliminarily and to stay this new federal rule, issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), that would limit state-implemented waivers of the work requirements on which receipt of food assistance from SNAP may be conditioned…

…The low-income Americans targeted by USDA’s Final Rule depend on monthly SNAP benefits to avoid hunger. These SNAP participants may wield little political or economic power, but, nonetheless,USDA’s proposed changes to take away nutrition benefits from almost 700,000 people prompted “more than100,000 comments,” the “majority” of which the agency concedes were opposed to the proposed changes…

…Notwithstanding these critical comments, USDA proceeded in the challenged Final Rule to adopt changes that, in some respects, were more draconian than those initially proposed. Although the hundreds of thousands of low-income individuals who stand to lose their benefits had little direct voice in that rulemaking process, the process exists to protect them and ensure that the agency cannot terminate their benefits arbitrarily. Under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), agency… rules, like USDA’s, are unlawful unless the agency has considered the relevant evidence, has weighed the consequences of its actions, and has rationally justified its choices. USDA says it did all that here, but USDA is not the arbiter of the Final Rule’s legality. The courts are, and this Court has determined that aspects of the Final Rule are likely unlawful because they are arbitrary and capricious. USDA will be enjoined from implementing those aspects of the Final Rule nationwide pending final judicial review.

The Final Rule relates to provisions of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) that conditioned the eligibility for SNAP benefits of able-bodied adults without disabilities, or ABAWDs, on meeting work-related requirements… Recognizing that the imposition of inflexible work requirements would undermine the SNAP program’s effectiveness in alleviating hunger, Congress created two relevant exceptions. First, PRWORA provided that, “[o]n the request of a State,” USDA “may waive the work requirements” in “area[s]” that “do not have a sufficient number of jobs” for ABAWDs…

…Portions of the challenged Final Rule set to become effective on April 1, 2020,redefine waiver “area[s]” and limit the ways that states can show lack of sufficient jobs… Second, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (BBA) allowed states to exempt from the work requirements up to 15% of all “covered individuals in the State.”… Portions of the Final Rule set to become effective on October 1, 2020,limit states’ ability to carry unused discretionary exemptions to later years. See 84 Fed. Reg. at 66802.For the reasons stated below, plaintiffs’ motions are DENIED as to the 4discretionary exemption portions of the Final Rule.Plaintiffs’ motions are GRANTED as to the waiver portions of the Final Rule…

March 13, 2020: Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine posted news titled: “AG Racine Announces Federal Court Blocks Trump Administration From Cutting Food Benefits”. From the news:

Attorney General Karl A. Racine tonight announced that the Honorable Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued an injunction in the District and New York State’s lawsuit to stop the Trump administration from unlawfully cutting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits from hundreds of thousands of Americans. In the lawsuit, a 20-state coalition and the City of New York challenged a new U.S. Department of Agriculture rule that would have pushed nearly 700,000 struggling Americans, including 13,000 District residents, out of the SNAP program. The rule was scheduled to go into effect on April 1, 2020. The preliminary injunction will allow states to retain some flexibility in determining when negative economic conditions require extending SNAP benefits for single adults past the program’s three-month limit.

“This is a major victory for our country’s most vulnerable residents who rely on SNAP to eat,” said AG Racine. “The Trump administration’s rule would have forced hundreds of thousands of people who could not find work, including 13,000 District residents, to go hungry. That could have been catastrophic in the midst of our current public health emergency.”

The court’s opinion states in part: “Especially now, as a global pandemic poses widespread health risks, guaranteeing that government officials at both the federal and state levels have flexibility to address the nutritional needs of residents and ensure their well-being through programs like SNAP, is essential.”…

…The coalition is co-led by District of Columbia AG Karl A. Racine and New York AG Letitia James and joined by Attorneys General from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia, along with the City of New York.  Bread for the City and two District residents who were poised to lose access to critical nutrition filed a companion suit…

March 13, 2020: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “USDA Announces Approval of D-SNAP, Other Flexibilities for Tennessee Tornado Disaster Areas”. From the press release:

Low-income Tennesseans recovering from recent tornadoes could be eligible for assistance from the USDA’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP), announced today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Deputy Under Secretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Brandon Lipps said that households who may not normally be eligible under regular Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rules may qualify for D-SNAP – if they meet the disaster income limits and have qualifying disaster-related expenses…

…To receive assistance through D-SNAP, a household must either live or work in an identified disaster area, have been affected by the disaster, and meet certain eligibility criteria. Approved households will receive one month of benefits, equal to the maximum amount for a SNAP household of their size, to meet their temporary food needs as they settle back home following the disaster. Tennessee will share information about D-SNAP application dates and locations through local media.

The timing of D-SNAP varies with the unique circumstances of each disaster, Lipps said, but always begins after commercial channels of food distribution have been restored and families are able to purchase and prepare food at home. Before operating a D-SNAP, a state must ensure that the proper public information, staffing, and resources are in place.

Although current SNAP households in the identified areas are not eligible for D-SNAP, they may request supplemental SNAP benefits to raise their allotment to the maximum amount for their household size for one month if they don’t already receive that amount.

Additionally, USDA has approved other flexibilities to help Tennesseans in the affected areas cope with the aftermath of the tornadoes, including:

  • A waiver to allow SNAP participants to buy hot foods and hot food products prepared for immediate consumption with their benefits at authorized SNAP retailers statewide through April 3, 2020, and
  • A waiver of the 10-day reporting timeframe for impacted residents currently participating in SNAP to request replacement benefits, extending the deadline to March 24, 2020…

March 14, 2020: KCBXFM posted an article titled: “Judge Blocks Rule That Would Have Kicked 700,000 People off SNAP”. It was written by Maria Godoy. From the article:

A federal judge has issued an injunction blocking the Trump administration from adopting a rule change that would force nearly 700,000 Americans off food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The rule change was set to take effect April 1.

In a ruling issued Friday evening in Washington, D.C., U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell called the rule change capricious, arbitrary and likely unlawful.

The rule change would have required able-bodied adults without children to work at least 20 hours a week in order to qualify for SNAP benefits past three months. It would also have limited states’ usual ability to waive those requirements depending on economic conditions. The preliminary injunction will preserve that flexibility…

…The change to SNAP is now blocked from taking effect pending the outcome of a lawsuit by 19 states plus the District of Columbia and New York City.

March 14, 2020: New York Attorney Leticia James posted a press release titled: “Court Stops Trump Admin’s Attempt to Restrict Access to Food Assistance”. From the press release:

New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced that a federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit led by New York and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine against the Trump Administration’s attempts to deny food assistance to hundreds of thousands of Americans by changing the rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The rule was set to take effect on April 1, 2020. Attorney General James released the following statement:

“At a time of national crisis, this decision is a win for common sense and basic human decency,” said Attorney General James. “This rule is cruel to its core and runs counter to who we are and what we represent as a nation. We lend a helping hand to give those struggling to pull themselves out of poverty a shot at succeeding in that endeavor. This rule would accomplish just the opposite, making those who already worry about ending their days hungry even more vulnerable, and as we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic, the effects of this rule would be more destructive than ever. We are grateful that this rule will not be implemented as we fight to permanently prevent it from ever going into effect.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in January, challenged the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) rule that would limit states’ ability to extend benefits from SNAP beyond a three-month period for certain adults. The lawsuit argued that the rule directly undermined Congress’ intent for SNAP, that the USDA violated the federal rulemaking process, and that the rule would impose significant regulatory burdens on the states and harm states’ economies and residents. If it had taken effect on April 1, 2020, this rule would have denied 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. 

In her decision, Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell noted that as we experience a global pandemic that puts the health and safety of millions at risk, “guaranteeing that government officials at both the federal and state levels have flexibility to address the nutritional needs of residents and ensure their well-being through programs like SNAP, is essential.

March 17, 2020: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “Notice to Stakeholders: USDA Extends Comment Period on Proposed School and Summer Meal Reforms”. From the press release:

USDA today announced it is extending the deadline for the public to comment on a pair of proposed rules on school and summer meals reforms. USDA is providing additional time to ensure those who wish to provide input do not miss out on the opportunity while dealing with the impacts of the novel coronavirus outbreak…

…The comment period will be extended 30 days ending April 22, 2020. This extension will allow schools, state agencies, stakeholders, and others who are working tirelessly to ensure children have food to eat while schools are closed the opportunity to provide valuable feedback. USDA encourages stakeholders to submit comments via regulations.gov.

USDA Actions in Response to COVID-19

Last week, Secretary Perdue announced proactive flexibilities to allow meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus. During an unexpected school closure, schools can leverage their participation in one of USDA’s summer meal programs to provide meals at no cost to students. Under normal circumstances, those meals must be served in a group setting. However, in a public health emergency, the law allows USDA the authority to waive the group setting meal requirement, which is vital during a social distancing situation.

USDA is using all available program flexibilities and contingencies to serve our program participants across our 15 nutrition programs. We have already begun to issue waivers to ease program operations and protect the health of participants. As of today, USDA has been asked to waive congregate feeding requirements in all 50 states, the District of Columbus, and Puerto Rico and USDA has granted those requests…

March 17, 2020: Governor Gavin Newsom (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Governor Newsom Places National Guard Personnel on Alert to Support COVID-19 Community Readiness”. From the press release:

Following through on his commitment to mobilize state personnel and assets to protect local communities and fight the spread of COVID-19, Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that he has placed the California National Guard on alert.

The National Guard has been directed by the Governor to be prepared to perform humanitarian missions across the state including food distribution, ensuring resiliency of supply lines, as well as supporting public safety as required.

“As Californians make sacrifices over the coming weeks and stay home, we are immensely grateful for medical providers, first-responders and National Guard personnel who are assisting those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19,” said Governor Newsom.

Today’s announcement, made in the Governor’s capacity as the Commander-in-Chief of the California National Guard, is consistent with duties routinely performed by the California National Guard during natural disasters and other emergencies within the state.

March 17, 2020: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “USDA Announces Feeding Program Partnership in Response to COVID-19”. From the press release:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced a collaboration with the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, PepsiCo, and others to deliver nearly 1,000,000 meals a week to students in a limited number of rural schools closed due to COVID-19:

“Feeding children who are affected by school closures is a top priority for President Trump and this Administration. USDA is working with private sector partners to deliver boxes of food to children in rural America who are affected by school closures,” said Secretary Perdue. “Right now, USDA and local providers are utilizing a range of innovative feeding programs to ensure children are practicing social distancing but are still receiving healthy and nutritious food. This whole of America approach to tackling the coronavirus leverages private sector ingenuity with the exact same federal financing as the Summer Food Service Program. USDA has already taken swift action to ensure children are fed in the event of school closures, and we continue to waive restrictions and expand flexibilities across our programs.”…

…Background:

USDA will utilize best practices learned through a summer pilot program in 2019 to deliver food boxes to children affected by school closures due to COVID-19 in rural America. Baylor will coordinate …with the appropriate state officials to prioritize students who do not currently have access to a Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) site and have an active outbreak of COVID-19. Initial capacity is limited, and additional vendors are requested and encouraged to ensure we can provide food to more rural children as additional schools close. USDA has created a single contact for those who have suggestions, ideas, or want to help feed kids across the country. Email feedingkids@usda.gov.

The Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, and PepsiCo will begin distributing next week and will quickly increase capacity of nearly 1,000,000 nutritious meals per week. In addition to distribution, PepsiCo will generously provide $1 million in funding to the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty to facilitate nationwide distribution in the coming weeks. These boxes will contain five days worth of shelf-stable, nutritious, individually packaged foods that meet USDA’s summer food requirements. The use of this innovative delivery system will ensure rural children receive nutritious food while limiting exposure to COVID-19. USDA will reimburse private sector partners for the same rate as an SFSP site.

Last week, Secretary Perdue announced proactive flexibilities to allow meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus. During an unexpected school closure, schools can leverage their participation in one of USDA’s summer meal programs to provide meals at no cost to students. Under normal circumstances, those meals must be served in a group setting. However, in a public health emergency, the law allows USDA the authority to waive the group setting meal requirement, which is vital during a social distancing situation.

USDA intends to use all available program flexibilities and contingencies to serve our program participants across our 15 nutrition programs. We have already begun to issue waivers to ease program operations and protect the health of participants. USDA is receiving requests for waivers on an ongoing basis. As of today, USDA has been asked to waive congregate feeding requirements in in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico and USDA has granted those requests.

March 18, 2020: President Trump signed H.R. 6201 – Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law. Some of it is about the SNAP Program.

From the law:

…TITLE I–DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

This title provides appropriations to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for

the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); andthe Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

(Sec. 1101) This section allows USDA to approve state plans to provide emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program) benefits to households with children who would otherwise receive free or reduced-price school meals if their schools were not closed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The child’s school must be closed for at least five consecutive days for the household to be eligible for benefits. States may provide the benefits using the Electronic Benefit Transfer system.

…(Sec. 1102) This section provides appropriations to USDA for grants to the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa for nutrition assistance in response to a COVID-19 public health emergency…

…DIVISION B–NUTRITION WAIVERS

This division expands food and nutrition programs of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) due to COVID-19.

TITLE I–MAINTAINING ESSENTIAL ACCESS TO LUNCH FOR STUDENTS ACT

Maintaining Essential Access to Lunch for Students Act or the MEALS Act

(Sec. 2102) This title modifies USDA food and nutrition programs to allow certain waivers of requirements for the school meal programs, including waivers that increase federal costs during a COVID-19-related school closure. Such waivers must be requested by a state or service provider and be for purposes of providing meals and snacks during such a closure.

TITLE II–COVID-19 CHILD NUTRITION RESPONSE ACT

COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Act

(Sec. 2202) This section authorizes USDA to

  • issue a single waiver of child nutrition program requirements to all states under the National School Lunch Program for purposes of providing meals and snacks with appropriate safety measures with respect to COVID-19,
  • grant waivers of requirements to allow non-congregate feeding in the Child and Adult Care Food Program for purposes of providing meals and snacks with appropriate safety measures with respect to COVID-19, and
  • grant waivers related to the nutritional content of meals served in child nutrition programs if it determines the waiver is necessary to provide meals and snacks and there is a food supply chain disruption due to COVID-19.

(Sec. 2203) USDA may

  • grant waivers allowing participants under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to get certified or recertified without being physically present at a WIC clinic, and
  • defer anthropometric and bloodwork requirements necessary to determine nutritional risk.

State agencies must submit waiver requests to USDA.

(Sec. 2204) USDA may also grant waivers from administrative requirements for WIC if it determines that (1) the requirement cannot be met by a state due to COVID-19, and (2) the waiver is necessary to provide assistance under WIC.

TITLE III–SNAP WAIVERS

(Sec. 2301) This section temporarily suspends work requirements under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program) during a public health emergency declaration due to COVID-19, allowing participants who would have lost eligibility due to such requirements to continue to receive SNAP benefits.

(Sec. 2302) This section provides for emergency SNAP benefits during a public health emergency declaration due to COVID-19.

States may request waivers from USDA to provide emergency allotments to households participating in SNAP to address temporary food needs not greater than the applicable maximum monthly allotment for the household size. State requests must be supported with sufficient data.

USDA may adjust (through guidance or based on states’ requests) administrative requirements such as issuance methods and reporting requirements to be consistent with what is practicable under actual conditions in affected areas…

March 20, 2020: Governor Gavin Newsom (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Governor Newsom Deploys California National Guard to Help Distribute Food at Food Banks & Protect California’s Most Vulnerable”. From the press release:

California Governor Gavin Newsom today announced the deployment of California National Guard members to provide short-term food security to isolated and vulnerable Californians. Building on Governor Newsom’s prioritization of protecting the most vulnerable from the COVID-19 pandemic, the short deployment will help to stabilize the immediate need of food banks.

“It’s in these times of crisis that Californians are at their best, coming to the aid of those in their community who are most in need. Food banks provide a critical lifeline for families, and are needed now more than ever. Families across our state are suddenly losing work, and millions of Californians most vulnerable to COVID-19 are staying home to protect their health and the health of others. I ask all Californians who are able to join our Neighbor-to-Neighbor campaign to safely assist those in need in your community.”

“The Neighbor-to-Neighbor campaign is a testament to the strength of our larger California community,” said First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “Now more than ever we must create a culture of WE over me. I am so proud that Californians across the state stand ready to meet this moment by embracing our California values of inclusivity, generosity and community.”

Due to COVID-19, many food banks have been affected by a significant decline in volunteerism, impacting logistical and local infrastructure for food distribution. The California Guard will initially deploy personnel and logistical equipment to a food bank distribution warehouse in Sacramento County starting today, and will conduct immediate site assessments statewide for those counties that have requested short-term support and stabilization. This short-term assistance from the California National Guard allows time to mobilize AmeriCorps, California Conservation Corps and Local Conservation Corps members, and other volunteers where counties have identified serious gaps.

The Administration’s food deployment strategy also launches the Neighbor-to-Neighbor campaign, which calls on neighbors to be first line of support for California’s most vulnerable residents who have been advised to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Neighbor-to-Neighbor campaign is focused on older adults and promotes ways to safely check on your neighbors, family and friends, and will be run by California Volunteers, the state office tasked with engaging Californians in service, volunteering and civic action.

The Administration is partnering with the social networking service Nextdoor to provide valuable information to California communities about the state’s response to COVID-19. The collaboration will allow the state to reach more than 22,000 neighborhoods using the platform. Neighbors use Nextdoor to exchange helpful information and California Volunteers will use this site to share ways residents can safely check on each other during the COVID-19 outbreak. The platform will also be used to share ways to safely ensure community members have the basic necessities they may need during periods of home isolation.

The State of California has also released information to promote resources and options for those facing food insecurity. A resource list will be posted to serve.ca.gov on ways Californians can support vulnerable members of our community that may have limited food resources, in ways that are in line with CDPH guidelines…

March 24, 2020: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) posted a press release titled: “HHS Announces Grants to Provide Meals for Older Adults”. From the press release:

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is announcing $250 million in grants from the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to help communities provide meals for older adults.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law by President Trump on March 18, 2020, provided the additional funding for the nutrition services programs authorized by the Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965. These programs provide meals to more than 2.4 million older adults each year, both through home delivery and in places like community centers. The need for these services, particularly home-delivered and packaged meals, has increased as community measures to slow transmission of COVID-19 have closed meal sites and have left many family caregivers unable to assist their older loved ones.

“The Trump Administration recognizes that the measures needed to protect older Americans from the serious threat of COVID-19 have been disruptive for many of our most vulnerable,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Getting more funds to community organizations that deliver meals to older adults, such as Meals on Wheels, is another example of the Trump Administration’s whole-of-government, whole-of-America approach to combating the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In addition to meals, Older Americans Act programs provide a wide range of services, such as help with bathing and dressing, rides to doctors’ offices, education on managing chronic illnesses, support for family caregivers, and much more. Provided by a network of community-based organizations, such as Area Agencies on Aging, local community and senior centers, faith-based organizations, and other non-profit service providers, these programs work together to help millions of older adults each year stay healthy and continue living independently.

 “The network of community-based organizations that provide Older Americans Act services has an exceptional capacity to coordinate services, bring together service providers, and adapt to overcome challenges, and they are employing innovative solutions to continue meal services,” said ACL Administrator Lance Robertson. “This additional funding will help communities across the country provide older adults, especially those at greatest risk, with the healthy meals they need.”

Funding has been provided to states, territories and tribes for subsequent allocation to local meal providers. Grant amounts are determined based on the population-based formulas defined in the Older Americans Act…

March 26, 2020: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a press release titled: “USDA Feeds Kids, Helps Families During COVID-19 Emergency”. From the press release:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working to be as flexible as possible to get food out to the people who need it during the COVID-19 National Emergency. On Wednesday, March 18, President Donald J. Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which includes billions of dollars in nutrition assistance for children and families. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is taking swift action to implement these new provisions and ensure children and families are fed. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) launched a new webpage – www.fns.usda.gov/coronavirus – to provide key information on COVID-19 nutrition assistance for program operators and the public alike.

USDA is working quickly and closely with states to best serve program participants. The new webpage supports transparency and efficiency, serving as a one-stop-shop for:

  • Tips from MyPlate for food planning during social distancing,
  • Fraud alerts to protect Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants from COVID-19-related scams,
  • Guidance from MyPlate for families trying to plan shopping trips during this pandemic,
  • Information on the state and nationwide waivers USDA has approved,
  • Interactive state maps with the flexibilities requested by each state and the status of those requests,
  • Guidance on the new flexibilities and activities USDA is allowing under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and more.

The website update is just the latest in a series of actions the Food and Nutrition Service has taken to support our program participants and the states that administer our programs. With new authority provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law by President Trump on March 18, 2020, USDA has issued nationwide waivers for child nutrition programs such as the National School Lunch Program and the Summer Food Service Program, temporarily eliminating the requirement that meals be served in group settings and loosening restrictions on the time of day meals are served and the number of meals that can be served at one time.

Also under the act, USDA is expanding benefits by:

  • Allowing additional flexibility in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to support social distancing and ensure participants can still purchase food when certain items are out of stock;
  • Providing flexibility for jobless workers to remain eligible for SNAP benefits;
  • Allowing states to issue emergency supplements to SNAP households;
  • Providing $100 million for Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Northern Marina Islands for increases in their Nutrition Assistance Programs; and much more…

March 29, 2020: Senator Cory Booker (Democrat – New Jersey) posted a press release titled: “Sens. Booker, Menendez, Rep. Pascrell Urge USDA to Allow NJ SNAP Beneficiaries to Participate in Online Shopping Pilot Program Amidst COVID-19 Outbreak”. From the press release:

U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.) and Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-09) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to request that New Jersey’s recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits be eligible to participate in a pilot program that allows the use of SNAP benefits for the purchase of SNAP eligible products online from approved online retailers. This will help protect the program’s recipients amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the state…

SNAP recipients in Alabama, Iowa, New York, Oregon and Washington can use their benefits to purchase SNAP products online through the USDA’s pilot program. Nearly a year after New Jersey was made eligible to participate in the pilot program, the state has yet to be formally admitted…

…SNAP is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program and currently benefits 705,000 New Jersey residents. The majority of SNAP beneficiaries in New Jersey are families with children, and more than 37% are families with members who are elderly or have disabilities.

The full text of the letter can be found below.

Dear Secretary Perdue,

We write to you regarding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the ability for recipients to use SNAP benefits to purchase SNAP eligible products online. As you are aware, there is currently a pilot program that allows SNAP recipients to use their benefits to purchase SNAP products online in Alabama, Iowa, New York, Oregon and Washington. The State of New Jersey was selected in April 2019 by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as eligible to participate in the SNAP online purchasing pilot program though has not yet been formally admitted to the pilot program. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, we request that USDA immediately allow New Jersey SNAP recipients to participate in this pilot program.

As you are aware, the COVID-19 virus has been classified as a pandemic. The State of New Jersey has declared a state of emergency and the Governor has issued an order to “shelter in place” that bans public gatherings and closes nonessential businesses. The order excepts trips made to grocery stores. Unfortunately, many SNAP recipients live in “food deserts” and may be many miles from the nearest grocery store so a trip that involves public transit or even an extended walk presents an increased risk. Furthermore, with schools closed in the state, parents are now full-time caregivers and a trip to a grocery store with or without a child becomes an extra burden and health risk. Thus, we believe that SNAP recipients should have the same opportunity as all New Jerseyans to be able to shop for groceries online and avoid unnecessary health risks.

Allowing New Jerseyans to use their SNAP benefits for online purchases will protect them and all New Jerseyans as we continue to fight spread of the COVID-19 virus. We request that USDA make this authorization immediately in order to protect New Jersey SNAP recipients. We look forward to your response no later than March 30, 2020.

April 8, 2020: U.S. Department of Agriculture posted a press release titled: “Arizona and California Added to Innovative SNAP Online Pilot Program”. From the press release:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced approval for Arizona and California’s request to provide online purchasing of food to SNAP Households in the States of Arizona and California. This approval will allow the States to expedite the implementation of online purchasing with currently authorized SNAP online retailers with a target start date later this month. California’s SNAP participation is over 4 million individuals, more than 2.2 million households, and totals more than $6 billion annually in federal funding. Arizona’s SNAP participation is nearly 800,000 individuals, almost 380,000 households, and totals nearly a $1 billion annually in federal funding. This announcement further demonstrates President Trump’s whole of America approach to fighting the coronavirus pandemic by ensuring those affected are fed.

“We are expanding new flexibilities and innovative programs to make sure Americans across this country have safe and nutritious food during this national emergency,” said Secretary Perdue. “Enabling people to purchase foods online will go a long way in helping Americans follow CDC social distancing guidelines and help slow the spread of the coronavirus. USDA is mandated with the noble goal of feeding Americans when they need it most, and we are fulfilling that mission with new innovative programs during this national emergency.”

Background:

The SNAP online pilot is currently operational in Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Washington State. Nebraska joined the pilot on April 1, 2020. Maryland and New Jersey remain non‐operational pilot states. The authorized retailers working with all pilot states are Amazon and Walmart, while Wrights Market and ShopRite are working with Alabama and New York respectively. Dash’s Market, Fresh Direct, Hy‐Vee, and Safeway are authorized retailers, which are not currently operational.

Though the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is receiving interest to expand the SNAP online pilot program, the responsibility is on state agencies, their third-party processor, and any retailers who wish to participate. To ease the process, FNS put together a simplified template for states who wish to enter the online pilot which is provided as an attachment to this letter.

USDA continues to provide significant technical assistance to interested states to ensure that plans are thorough and appropriate preliminary testing is conducted. If not done properly and judiciously, there is a risk to the State’s entire benefit system. Each State, its EBT processor and retailers present their own mix of challenges so FNS is providing customer service based on each of their specific needs.

FNS will continue to work with interested states in advancing their participation in this pilot. Until States are prepared to operate the pilot, USDA recommends States utilize other options that retailers may already provide, such as Pay at Pick-up (also known as “Click and Collect”), where SNAP cardholders can shop online and then pay for their purchase using their EBT card at pick-up. Grocery pickup is already an option that these retailers offer beyond SNAP so they are already thinking through how they can provide a safe environment to do so with the growing concerns around social distancing…

April 21, 2020: New York Attorney General Letitia James posted a press release titled: “AG James to Trump Admin: Now is Not the Time to Let 3.1 Million People Go Hungry”. From the press release:

Attorney General Letitia James today led a coalition of 22 attorneys general and the City of New York demanding that the Trump administration immediately suspend its efforts to stop food assistance for 3.1 million people. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the coalition urged the agency not to finalize a proposed rule that would disqualify millions of low-income Americans from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The Trump administration is trying to make it harder to qualify for food benefits by imposing significant burdens on states. The states and New York City warn that it is deeply irresponsible to move forward with these changes during a global pandemic and deepening economic crisis in which hundreds of thousands of people are ill and millions have lost jobs.

“With tens of millions of individuals out of work and with the nation in the middle of a public health crisis, now is not the time to let 3.1 million people go hungry,” Attorney General James said. “Families and states are already seeking to make ends meet because of the global pandemic, and this rule would push them into an even more precarious position. It is unconscionable to move forward with trying to implement this policy, and we demand that the Trump administration immediately suspend the rulemaking process. We must all be working together to get through this.”

The Trump administration’s proposed rule “Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),” would limit needy families’ access to SNAP, the country’s most important anti-hunger program, which is often referred to as food stamps. SNAP provides low-income people the opportunity to buy nutritious food that they otherwise could not afford. SNAP is a crucial component of federal and state efforts to help lift people out of poverty — and it is a crucial lifeline that could prevent families from going hungry at a time when more than 20 million residents across the nation, including more than 1.2 million New York residents, have lost jobs and filed for unemployment in the five-week period ending April 11.

USDA’s proposed rule would eliminate a long-standing policy known as “broad-based categorical eligibility” (BBCE). This policy allows states to make low-income families automatically eligible for SNAP benefits if they have already qualified to receive certain other types of public assistance. Through BBCE, states can extend SNAP benefits to low-income families that slightly exceed the program’s income and asset limits if they also have significant critical expenses, like childcare, housing, or education expenses. BBCE is used by 39 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In the letter sent to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the coalition asserts that USDA must immediately suspend rulemaking because if the proposed rule is finalized, it would:

  • Take food assistance away from 3.1 million people during the pandemic. If the proposed rule is finalized now, over 3.1 million low-income people could lose critical nutrition assistance. These cuts would hit especially hard at a time when approximately 95 percent of Americans are under stay-at-home orders, millions of people are out of work, and there are fully signed Presidential Disaster Declarations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Impair the national response to COVID-19. To prevent the further spread of COVID-19, which has already killed more than 42,000 people in the United States, including more than 13,000 New Yorkers, it is necessary for people to comply with stay-at-home orders in their jurisdictions and continue social distancing. In order to do so, they must be able to feed themselves, whether or not they are still employed, searching for employment, or able to work from home. Additionally, many essential workers — grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, warehouse workers, among others — who are keeping the country running during the public health emergency rely on food stamps. These workers should not have to worry about how to feed their own families, too.
  • Impose major administrative burdens on states that are desperately fighting COVID-19. The Rule would impose substantial additional administrative burdens on states, at a time when they are acting as frontline public health and economic responders and focusing every possible resource on keeping residents safe. BBCE was intended to reduce administrative costs and burdens by allowing states to qualify families for multiple benefit programs at once, rather than having to assess the same families multiple times and using separate qualification processes for each program. By eliminating BBCE, the Trump administration would force states to duplicate efforts as they evaluate residents for programs that they desperately need.

The coalition also argues that implementing the proposed rule would run counter to guidance from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget directing federal agencies to “prioritize all resources to slow the spread of COVID-19.” They emphasize there is no plausible argument that implementing the proposed rule would help slow the spread of COVID-19 and urge USDA to focus on supporting families throughout this crisis instead of denying needed assistance.

The letter was led by New York Attorney General Letitia James and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine and joined by attorneys general from California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, and the Corporation Counsel for the City of New York.

April 21, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Calls on Trump Administration to Protect SNAP, Keep Food on Families’ Tables”. From the press release:

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a coalition of 22 attorneys general and the City of New York in a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue calling on the Trump Administration to halt efforts to move forward on a proposed rule that threatens food security for millions of Americans. The proposed rule attacks the existing process around categorical eligibility that makes it easier for states to flexibly administer the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in line with actual community needs. In the letter, the coalition highlights the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on working families and asserts that now is not the time to move forward on a rule that would take food away from families in need.

“Slamming the door on food assistance for families in need goes against our core value of giving everyone an opportunity to succeed,” said Attorney General Becerra. “As our coalition notes, it is critical that people who are supposed to stay at home are able to have food on the table at home. Taking away the lifeline SNAP provides while an unprecedented number of Americans are losing their jobs, their paychecks, and their ability to put food on the table is unconscionable. That’s why we’re calling on Secretary Perdue to put a halt to this callous rule and protect working families who are struggling in the face of this economic and public health crisis.”

In a comment letter last year, Attorney General Becerra called on the Trump Administration to withdraw its proposal on categorical eligibility for SNAP. In the letter, he asserted that the proposed rule undermines SNAP’s original goals of alleviating hunger and malnutrition in low-income households. The proposal would inhibit the states’ ability to administer SNAP based on actual local need, and effectively limit the number of households and individuals that are eligible to enroll in the program. Specifically, the proposed rule would categorically eliminate certain individuals from being automatically eligible for SNAP based on their existing qualification for other federal need-based programs.

In the letter sent today, the coalition calls on the USDA to act in accordance with the federal government’s own directive to prioritize all resources to slow the spread of COVID-19. In the letter, the coalition urges the USDA to immediately focus all resources on the critical issues working families face in responding to the coronavirus, not on finalizing the proposed rule to deny SNAP benefits to millions of people. Finalizing the proposed rule now would put an undue burden on state agencies on the front lines of the response to COVID-19…

…In sending the letter, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, New York, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as the City of New York. 

A copy of the letter is available here.

April 23, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Harris, Gillibrand, Sanders Announce Bill to Fight Hunger, Help Families Afford Food Amid Economic Crisis”. From the press release:

U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), along with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), on Thursday announced the introduction of the Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2020, legislation that expands and strengthens Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for vulnerable community members that are struggling to make ends meet. With food banks experiencing skyrocketing demand across the country, the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically increased the need for SNAP to combat food insecurity. This effort builds off of work done by Congresswoman Alma Adams in the House.  

“We are in the midst of a historic economic crisis – people are hurting. They are struggling to put food on the table, and existing nutrition benefits don’t get people through the end of the month,” said Senator Harris. “Folks are looking to Congress to take immediate action to help them make ends meet. I’m proud to introduce the Closing the Meal Gap Act because we need to give people the resources they need to afford food during tough times. No one in America should ever go hungry, especially during a public health crisis.”

“The SNAP program provides a critical lifeline for food insecure families, but during this unprecedented crisis, the program needs more support than ever to meet the needs of every SNAP recipient,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Not only must SNAP provide more benefits, but barriers to eligibility should also be limited in order to reach more families. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Senator Harris and lead the fight to keep food on the table throughout this pandemic and beyond.”

“At a time when the coronavirus pandemic is threatening millions of lives across the country and causing huge spikes in unemployment, we need to make sure our safety net is stronger than ever. That means making sure all Americans, including in our territories, have the food they need to feed their families,” said Senator Sanders.

“Before COVID-19, 38 million Americans depended on SNAP for their meals. Now, it’s even clearer that SNAP benefits are simply not generous enough to provide the help people need,” said Congresswoman Adams. “The Closing the Meal Gap Act will address this issue by strengthening the SNAP program for millions of people affected by COVID-19 as well as older Americans, people with disabilities, children, struggling parents, students, unemployed and underemployed people, and veterans. I’m grateful for the leadership of Senators Harris and Gillibrand in the Senate and hopeful that together we can pass this bill and take another big step towards ending hunger in America.”

The Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2020 is endorsed by Food Research and Action Center, California Association of Food Banks, Western Center on Law and Poverty, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Hunger Free America, Coalition for Food Security Puerto Rico, Public Interest Law Project, California Coalition of Welfare Rights Organizations, California Partnership, Central California Food Bank, Ceres Community Project, Communities Actively Living Independent & Free, County Welfare Directors Association of California, Food Bank of Santa Barbara County, Food for People, Inc., FOOD Share of Venture County, Hunger Action Los Angeles, Jewish Family Service LA, Mercy Brown Bag, Orange County Food Bank, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County, Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, California Alternative Payment Program Association, California Food Policy Advocates, CAPPA Children’s Foundation, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, End Child Poverty CA/The GRACE Institute, Feeding San Diego, Friends of the Earth, Kidango, San Diego Food Bank, San Francisco Senior and Disability Action, Yolo Food Bank, East Bay Community Law Center, Del Norte and Tribal Lands Community Food Council, Ecology Center, Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano Counties, Meals on Wheels California, Sacramento Food Bank, Sacramento Food Policy Council, SAGE, San Diego Food Systems Alliance, Westside Food Bank, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, National Council on Aging, Alameda County Food Bank, Lutheran Office of Public Policy, National Association of Social Workers, National Association of Social Workers – California Chapter, Redwood Empire Food Bank, San Diego Hunger Coalition, Slow Food California, and the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

“SNAP was one of the first programs to respond to the pandemic with timely and quick resources to prevent hunger among families losing earnings, school meals and congregate senior meals,” said Jessica Bartholow of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “Unfortunately, it hasn’t been as responsive as it could have been had the benefit been right-sized. The Close the Meal Gap will ready SNAP to better meet the need and prevent hunger during the current public health crises and beyond and we are honored to be an original endorser of the Act.”

“We are thrilled that Senator Harris has introduced the Closing the Meal Gap Act to strengthen SNAP, our nation’s best defense against hunger,” said Andrew Cheyne, director of government affairs at the California Association of Food Banks. “Even before this pandemic, our network saw first-hand the necessity of SNAP, the program delivers nine meals for every one meal distributed through food banks. Moreover, while SNAP is essential to the health and wellbeing of our community-members, it also crucial to the local economy by creating jobs and making sure local businesses have customers. Especially during this unprecedented crisis, we need the critical investments this important legislation would provide to fight hunger and deliver critical economic stimulus.”

“Given that we are now facing the worst U.S. hunger crisis in modern history, it’s absolutely vital to get extra food help to the tens of millions of Americans who rely on SNAP to help fill their grocery carts.  Such a SNAP boost would dwarf the food aid that charities are able to provide, and would also help keep food stores and famers in business.  I thank Senators Gillibrand and Harris for their compassionate and common-sense leadership on this,” said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it all too clear that there are gaping holes in our country’s nutrition safety net, and while others have failed to act, Senators Harris and Gillibrand have shown a real commitment to meeting the critical needs of all Americans,” said Abby J. Leibman, President & CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “We have known for years that SNAP benefits do not provide enough support for individuals and families who struggle with hunger. Now, more than ever, we must rectify this in a way that stimulates the economy and enables all those who need SNAP — including veterans, college students, Native Americans, and people in rural and remote communities — to put food on the table.”

The Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2020:

  • Increases Benefits. Increases the baseline for SNAP benefits by approximately 30%. This better aligns with how household needs, and allows for a more nutritional diet.
  • Eliminates Eligibility Limits & Unrealistic Barriers. Eliminates time limits for people struggling to find work from receiving SNAP benefits.
  • Expands Benefits For Territories. Stops discrimination against those who live and work in U.S. territories by transitioning them to SNAP and treating them as if they were states. 

A one-pager on the bill can be found here.

Bill text can be found here.

April 23, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: Harris, Warren, Murphy Push to Ensure College Students Have Food on the Table Amid COVID-19 Crisis”. From the press release:

U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) on Thursday sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pushing to help college students access critical nutrition assistance by allowing Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) to be triggered during a pandemic. College students across the nation have been struggling with food insecurity long before the COVID-19 outbreak. The crisis has amplified the need to ensure college students don’t go hungry. Last year, Senator Harris, along with Senator Warren, introduced the BASIC Act to help college students afford basic necessities– including food. Last month, Senator Harris introduced the Pandemic Disaster Assistance Act to expand the ability of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide Individual Assistance, including D-SNAP, during a pandemic.  

“College students across the nation are facing unprecedented challenges amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, shuttered campuses have exacerbated their food insecurity. In 2019, 39% of America’s college students reported being food insecure within the past 30 days. Food insecurity is more common among students attending two-year and community colleges, and disproportionately affects Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students, students who are parenting, and students who have been in foster care,” said the lawmakers. “Many college communities have woven a safety net for food-insecure students with food pantries, on-campus meal provision, and similar programs, but many of those services are inaccessible during this pandemic due to social distancing and campus shutdowns.”

They continued, “College students were among the first to experience substantial changes as the nation worked to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. As policymakers, we must bolster protections for our most vulnerable college students during this uncertain time. Opening D-SNAP to college students would ensure their immediate needs are met. We thank you for your urgent attention to this matter.”

Along with Harris, Warren, and Murphy, the letter was signed by Senators Booker (D-NJ), Blumenthal (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Bennet (D-CO), Markey (D-MA), Baldwin (D-WI), Sanders (D-VT), Leahy (D-VT), Kaine (D-VA), Menendez (D-NJ), Wyden (D-OR), Warner (D-VA), Hirono (D-HI), Smith (D-MN), Duckworth (D-IL), and Rosen (D-NV).

Full text of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

As you consider an additional emergency recovery package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impacts, we urge you to address the crucial nutrition needs of college students by qualifying the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) as an eligible form of Individual Assistance during a pandemic under the Stafford Act. 

College students across the nation are facing unprecedented challenges amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, shuttered campuses have exacerbated their food insecurity. In 2019, 39% of America’s college students reported being food insecure within the past 30 days. Food insecurity is more common among students attending two-year and community colleges, and disproportionately affects Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students, students who are parenting, and students who have been in foster care. Many college communities have woven a safety net for food-insecure students with food pantries, on-campus meal provision, and similar programs, but many of those services are inaccessible during this pandemic due to social distancing and campus shutdowns. Dozens of states have sought waivers of college student eligibility rules under the broad authorities given to USDA in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The USDA, however, has denied these waivers.

Unfortunately, SNAP benefits are often inaccessible to college students. College students are presumed to be ineligible for SNAP unless they meet a set of specific eligibility criteria, such as working at least 20 hours per week, participating in Federal Work Study, or having dependent children under age 12. These high eligibility criteria leave many food-insecure college students ineligible for SNAP benefits. Additionally, many eligible college students do not avail themselves of SNAP benefits—a 2018 GAO report found that SNAP failed to serve almost 60% of eligible students.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, students have lost on- and off-campus campus employment and can no longer fulfill the SNAP 20-hour work requirement. Thus, even the few students who could access benefits are now ineligible for SNAP benefits. While the Families First Coronavirus Response Act suspended work requirements for adults, it did not change the strict requirements for students. In addition, as students move back in with family members, those households now have extra mouths to feed and aren’t able to access extra funds. We can address the unique needs of these families and food insecure college students by making D-SNAP available for students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress can do this by amending the Stafford Act and qualifying D-SNAP under Individual Assistance during pandemics, similar to the Pandemic Disaster Assistance Act.

D-SNAP was created to meet immediate food needs during times of disaster. There is no doubt that the current crisis is causing closures and disruptions similar to those caused by a hurricane or an earthquake, but on a national scale. D-SNAP would apply to college students who are employed or unemployed, and to those who have dropped out due to the challenges of remote learning as long as they meet income requirements. For those already enrolled in SNAP, it provides the maximum SNAP benefit. Additionally, D-SNAP provides flexibility for program requirements including waiving in-person interviews and document signing, allowing applicants to follow social distancing guidelines. Furthermore, states already have an existing infrastructure to implement D-SNAP during natural disasters, which would allow students to access these crucial resources more quickly.

College students were among the first to experience substantial changes as the nation worked to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. As policymakers, we must bolster protections for our most vulnerable college students during this uncertain time. Opening D-SNAP to college students would ensure their immediate needs are met. We thank you for your urgent attention to this matter.

April 28, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Harris, Hirono, Murphy, Warren to USDA: College Students Need Access to SNAP During Pandemic”. From the press release:

U.S Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Tuesday joined Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), along with Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), in urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately reverse its blanket denial of waiver requests and allow college students continued access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits if they have become unemployed due to the pandemic.

In their letter, the Senators noted that many college students were already food insecure before the pandemic, and that the widespread closures of colleges have further disrupted the support systems students might need. Citing the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia requested waivers to permit students to receive SNAP benefits even if they lose their employment due to COVID-19.

“It is important to continue to ensure that the needs of vulnerable populations, including college students, do not go unaddressed in this time of extreme and unpredictable economic conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a number of weaknesses at various points in our food supply chain, and we should be responding by taking actions that increase access to food security for those who are currently, or are on the verge of being, food insecure,” the Senators wrote.

The Senators continued, “We request USDA immediately reconsider the sweeping denial of waiver requests seeking the temporary waiving of the work requirement imposed on college students and allow students who lose their employment to continue to receive SNAP benefits for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The letter can be found here and below:

Dear Secretary Perdue:

We write to urge reconsideration of the blanket denial of waiver requests from states wishing to maintain eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for college students who have lost their employment due to COVID-19. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia requested these waivers on current restrictions for students to receive food assistance, signaling that the issue was serious enough to warrant the prompt attention of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Food and Nutrition Services (FNS), and the Agency’s actions in response imply a lack of concern for this already vulnerable population.

Recent widespread closures at our nation’s colleges and universities have interrupted semesters and disrupted lives during this unprecedented national crisis. Emergency proclamations leading to the closure of retail and food service businesses, among others, have further exacerbated this disruption and increased financial strain on workers, including college students. Congress has provided resources to support students affected by these closures, and may provide further assistance in the future. However, more can be done in the meantime.

Even before these closures, many college students were food insecure. Last year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) documented numerous studies that indicated food insecurity is prevalent among college students, estimating that more than 30 percent of student study participants were close to food insecure. GAO’s report only confirms what we have heard from students, schools, service providers, and others. College has become increasingly more expensive, and, while many students work in order to afford to attend school, a substantial number are still food insecure.

FNS has worked with state agencies on waivers that increase flexibility with reporting parameters, application and certification, and emergency allotments. It is important to continue to ensure that the needs of vulnerable populations, including college students, do not go unaddressed in this time of extreme and unpredictable economic conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a number of weaknesses at various points in our food supply chain, and we should be responding by taking actions that increase access to food security for those who are currently, or are on the verge of being, food insecure.

It is for these reasons that we request USDA immediately reconsider the sweeping denial of waiver requests seeking the temporary waiving of the work requirement imposed on college students and allow students who lose their employment to continue to receive SNAP benefits for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

April 29, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Harris, Colleagues Push to Strenghten Food Assistance Amid Coronavirus Crisis”. From the press release:

U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday joined Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) and 19 of their colleagues in urging Senate leadership to support and strengthen SNAP—also known as food stamps—to help ensure that families across America can keep food on their tables despite the mounting economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, Senator Harris introduced legislation to expand and strengthen SNAP benefits to ensure families have the resources they need to afford food during COVID-19 crisis.

“SNAP is the nation’s first line of defense against hunger and is proven to help lifts millions of American families and children out of poverty,” the senators wrote. “The latest estimate by the Census Bureau found that SNAP lifted 3.4 million people out of poverty in 2018 including 1.5 million children. Given the unprecedented disruption to the economy, income and employment with more than 17 million Americans filing unemployment benefit claims, an expanded and strengthened SNAP can serve as a buffer for families who are now at risk of food insecurity and are struggling to make ends meet during this national health crisis.” 

“We can avert the risk of poverty and food insecurity among American families and children while improving our chances for an economic rebound by investing in SNAP,” the senators continued.

Specifically, the senators requested the following provisions be included in upcoming coronavirus relief legislation:

  • Increase the maximum SNAP benefit for all recipients by increasing the thrifty food plan by at least 15 percent to all households, which is equivalent to another $25 per person per month, or a little under $100 per month in food assistance for a family of four.
  • Increase the monthly minimum SNAP benefit from $16 to $30 to all households. This will go a long way in helping older Americans, single persons, and family households keep food on the table.
  • Suspend the harmful rules proposed by USDA that would weaken SNAP eligibility and benefits at time when Americans need SNAP assistance.
  • Provide additional options and investments to support delivery for SNAP participants.

Senators Harris, Merkley, and Murphy were joined in sending the letter by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Robert Casey (D-PA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer,

Thank you for your bipartisan effort to respond to the health and economic impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). As you prepare for a fourth economic relief package, we respectfully request that you address the needs of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants.

SNAP is the nation’s first line of defense against hunger and is proven to help lifts millions of American families and children out of poverty. The latest estimate by the Census Bureau found that SNAP lifted 3.4 million people out of poverty in 2018 including 1.5 million children. Given the unprecedented disruption to the economy, income and employment with more than 17 million Americans filing unemployment benefit claims, an expanded and strengthened SNAP can serve as a buffer for families who are now at risk of food insecurity and are struggling to make ends meet during this national health crisis. 

The hardship many families are experiencing as a result of the pandemic is evident in what we are seeing from the frontlines. Food banks are reporting that an additional 17.1 million people could experience food insecurity, a 46 percent increase from the 37 million who were food insecure prior to the outbreak of the pandemic. And school meal sites are being forced to close because their staff have tested positive for the coronavirus, making it harder for kids in need to access meals. Charitable food organizations are exhausting every resource and cannot do this alone. For every meal served by food banks, SNAP provides nine. SNAP is a powerful tool that can immediately help to alleviate the hardship on families who have been directly impacted by COVID-19.

In addition, families are experiencing dual challenges of food insecurity and being told to buy additional food stocks in order to stay home and adhere to social distancing guidelines. Already, the current SNAP benefit level is not sufficient to meet the needs of families and individuals impacted by COVID-19. The average SNAP benefit per person is about $1.40 per meal per day, barely enough to buy one full meal, especially in high-cost regions of the country. Because the benefit amount is so small, most SNAP households barely make it to the end of the month. Studies have shown that SNAP households redeem more than half of their benefits within the first week of receiving benefits and over 75 percent of the benefit is used by the end of the second week. By increasing the purchasing power of SNAP households, families can safely access food and adhere to the social distancing requirements by allowing them to purchase more food during a trip to the grocery store.

Increasing SNAP benefits is one of the most effective ways to help low-income families and stimulate the economy during times of strain. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service estimates that every $1 billion invested in SNAP supports 13,600 jobs and approximately $32 million in farm revenue, and increases the GDP of the United States by $1.54 billion.  We can avert the risk of poverty and food insecurity among American families and children while improving our chances   for an economic rebound by investing in SNAP.

Specifically, we write to request that the next relief package include the following provisions:

  • Increase the maximum SNAP benefit for all recipients by increasing the thrifty food plan by at least 15 percent to all households, which is equivalent to another $25 per person per month, or a little under $100 per month in food assistance for a family of four.
  • Increase the monthly minimum SNAP benefit from $16 to $30 to all households. This will go a long way in helping older Americans, single persons, and family households keep food on the table.
  • Suspend the harmful rules proposed by USDA that would weaken SNAP eligibility and benefits at time when Americans need SNAP assistance.
  • Provide additional options and investments to support delivery for SNAP participants.

This economic approach is not new to Congress. At the height of the Great Recession in 2009, the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped prevent large increases in poverty by increasing the maximum SNAP benefit. In order to mitigate the inevitable disruptions that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to bring, Congress must make a similar investment in SNAP to help feed families and strengthen our economy.

May 5, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Harris, Scott, Thompson, McGovern, Davis, Join Chef José Andrés To Introduce the FEED Act”. From the press release:

U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), and Tim Scott (R-SC), and Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Rodney Davis (R-IL), joined Chef José Andrés and World Central Kitchen in introducing the FEMA Empowering Essential Deliveries (FEED) Act. This bill allows the Federal government to pay 100 percent of the cost to states and localities so that they can partner with restaurants and nonprofits to prepare nutritious meals for vulnerable populations, such as seniors and underprivileged children. These partnerships will support businesses and small farmers as the Coronavirus pandemic continues…

…The FEMA Empowering Essential Deliveries (FEED) Actaims to provide nutritious meals to people in need in response to the Coronavirus crisis. The bill waives section 403(b) and 503(a) of the Stafford Act, which allows for FEMA to cover the cost of emergency and disaster related expenses. Under this legislation, the Federal government would cover 100 percent of the cost of disaster-related expenses, instead of the typical 75 percent. This would eliminate any state costs during the COVID-19 crisis and allow more states to take a proactive approach to distributing meals and providing more financial relief to restaurants.

Text of the bill can be found here.

May 11, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Harris, Colleagues Push to Expand Delivery for SNAP Recipients During Pandemic”. From the press release:

U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Monday joined Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and 26 of their colleagues in calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately ensure SNAP participants can recieve home food delivery and curbside pickup during the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, Harris introduced legislation expanding and strengthening SNAP benefits for vulnerable community members.

In the letter to USDA, the Senators wrote, “The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented rise in unemployment and a subsequent increase in demand for food assistance. At the same time, social distancing guidelines and stay at home orders have made it challenging—and unsafe—for many individuals to travel to purchase food. This is especially true for seniors and immunocompromised individuals who are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19, as well as individuals with disabilities and families who lack reliable transportation. We believe that no individual or family should be disadvantaged simply because they rely on SNAP benefits to access the food they need.”

USDA’s SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot makes it possible for SNAP participants to purchase grocery deliveries, but its availability remains limited to the states and retailers who have opted in to the program. In addition to expanding the Online Purchasing Pilot, the Senators urged USDA to answer key questions and to maximize and the alternative mechanisms that exist to facilitate delivery for SNAP participants.

Senators Harris and Casey were joined by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Angus King (I-ME), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

A copy of the letter can be found here.

May 13, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Harris, Colleagues Introduce Nutrition Equity Bill for Puerto Rico, Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands”. From the press release:

U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday joined Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representative Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) and 16 of their colleagues in introducing the Equitable Nutrition Assistance for the Territories Act of 2020 to ensure that in the face of the economic, public-health, and food-security crises posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the people of Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa receive equal access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Last month, Harris and Sanders announced legislation opening up the federal SNAP program to more people, which included expanding SNAP benefits for territories.

The federal SNAP program is designed to respond to meet the needs of food-insecure Americans during times of high poverty, unemployment, and economic downturns, automatically expanding coverage. Under SNAP, everyone who is eligible receives benefits. The block grant that exists for these three territories’ nutrition assistance means that no matter how many people face food insecurity, the amount of funding remains flat.

Puerto Rico is in especially dire need of increased food assistance funding due to a decades-long economic crisis, hundreds of recent earthquakes, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated certain parts of the island. Prior to the outbreak, one-third of adults experienced food insecurity. Since then, the island has seen an increase of over 10,000 new families applying for nutrition support. 

In the early 1980s, Congress removed Puerto Rico from what was then the Food Stamp Program and replaced it with a block grant. A family of four in Puerto Rico receives a maximum basic benefit of $410 per month compared to $649 for a family of four living in the continental United States. The Equitable Nutrition Assistance for the Territories Act of 2020 transitions Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa to SNAP benefits.

“We are in the midst of a historic public health and economic crisis and the people of Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa are, like other Americans, struggling to put food on the table,” said Harris. “It is time for Congress to take immediate action to end the discriminatory treatment of Americans living in U.S. territories and help give people the resources they need to afford food during tough times.”

“Millions of families are struggling to put food on the table during this devastating pandemic. The people of Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa deserve the same help from the federal government as any state—period,” Sanders said. “This bill would end unequal treatment of the territories, help Puerto Rico recover from the earthquakes, and aid some of the most vulnerable in our society during this time of global crisis. Right now, we are all in this together and we cannot tolerate American citizens going hungry, living on U.S. soil, being denied the support they are entitled to.”

“Puerto Ricans are American citizens who fight and die in our wars,” said Velázquez. “It is shameful and unconscionable that, when it comes to food security, they receive disparate treatment through a program that fails to help them when they need it most. No child in our nation should ever go hungry, but especially not after natural disasters or during a historic pandemic. Unfortunately, the current nutrition assistance program fails Puerto Rico when food demand is highest. This legislation would fix this longstanding injustice and I’m proud to join Bernie Sanders in introducing it,” Velázquez added.

Along with Harris, Sanders, and Velázquez, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Booker (D-NJ), Markey (D-MA), Blumenthal (D-CT), Gillibrand (D-NY), Menendez (D-NJ), Warren (D-MA) and Klobuchar (D-MN); Representatives Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Moore (D-WI), Grijalva (D-AZ), Gonzalez-Colón (D-PR), Espaillat (D-NY), Holmes Norton (D-DC), Serrano (D-NY), Meng (D-NY), and Lee (D-CA).

To read a summary of the bill, click here.

To read the text of the bill, click here.

May 20, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Dear Colleague to All Members on Fighting Hunger During Coronavirus”. From the press release:

…The Heroes Act addresses hunger in America, which has always been a challenge to the conscience of our country.  The coronavirus has made this challenge worse, as millions of families struggle to put food on the table due to this unprecedented threat to their lives and livelihoods.  Surveys show that 1 in 5 mothers of children under 12 say that their children are not getting enough food during the coronavirus crisis – three times the rate during the depths of the Great Recession.

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps) has been a cornerstone in the fight against hunger and a pathway out of poverty for decades.  Now, it is an essential part of the fight against the coronavirus. 

SNAP benefits are a lifeline for both rural and urban families, helping them both buy food and meet daily needs such as rent, food, and transportation.  This investment in food security is also one of the fastest, most effective forms of economic stimulus: according to the USDA, every dollar of SNAP increases GDP by about $1.50 during a weak economy.  Further, SNAP supports local, good-paying American jobs; specifically, USDA estimates that every $1 billion invested in SNAP supports 13,600 jobs.

State and local leaders across the nation, Democrat and Republican, recognize the importance of SNAP, particularly during the coronavirus crisis.  As dozens of Mayors recently wrote to Congress, “America’s cities are on the front line of responding to unprecedented disruption to local economies triggered by COVID-19.  As mayors, we need every option available to fight hunger and stimulate the economy in our cities.  SNAP is a proven solution to both challenges… Given the extraordinary increase in need during this public health crisis, we urge you to temporarily expand SNAP.”

Democratic Members, standing with state and local leaders, were clear about the need for assistance for hungry families as we developed, drafted and debated The Heroes Act.  This legislation addresses hunger, including by:

  • Increasing the maximum SNAP benefit by 15 percent;
  • Nearly doubling the minimum SNAP benefit to $30 per month;
  • Securing $3 billion for school children who do not have access to food due to COVID-19 school closures, building on the $8.8 billion secured in the CARES Act, and extending those benefits through the summer;
  • Providing $1.1 billion for low-income pregnant women and mothers with young children to access nutritious foods through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program, following the $500 million secured in the CARES Act;
  • Adding $150 million in food banks, for a total of $1 billion provided by Congress, to help local food banks meet the dramatically increased demand for food during this public health emergency;
  • Bolstering additional nutrition initiatives, including for seniors struggling with hunger and states facing increasing demand for SNAP benefits.

Millions of hungry families, along with children, students, individuals with disabilities, veterans, unemployed Americans and seniors, rely on this lifeline.  Millions more may turn to SNAP in the weeks and months to come.  We cannot abandon them in their time of need.

Please make your U.S. Senators aware of the major investment that The Heroes Act makes in addressing food insecurity and your support for hungry families during this devastating time…

June 1, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Joins Multistate Coalition Urging Congress to Protect SNAP, Keep Food on Families’ Tables”. From the press release:

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a coalition of 24 attorneys general and the City of New York in a letter urging Congress to block the Trump Administration’s attempts to eliminate vital food assistance for millions of Americans during this time of unprecedented uncertainty. In the letter, the coalition expresses support for provisions of the HEROES Act that would prohibit appropriations to implement administrative rules that would restrict access to critically necessary benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). With nearly 40 million Americans having filed for unemployment in recent weeks, protecting and expanding SNAP should be among Congress’s top priorities during this economic and public health crisis.

“Despite the effects of an ongoing public health crisis, the Trump Administration is still focused on ripping away critical support from working families,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We all have to work together to protect access to important programs like SNAP, healthcare, and housing assistance that benefit millions of American children and families. That’s why we’re calling on Congress to step up and join us in this effort.”

The HEROES Act, as passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, would prohibit appropriations for the following rules related to SNAP:

Requirements for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents: This rule threatens to push nearly 700,000 struggling Americans off of SNAP by restricting states’ ability to extend benefits to individuals beyond a three-month period. In addition, the rule would force states to ignore localized assessments in favor of overly broad unemployment metrics. Following a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General and other state partners, the rule has been blocked from going into effect while litigation is ongoing. 

Revision of Categorical Eligibility: This rule undermines food security for 3.1 million Americans and puts approximately 265,000 children at risk of losing access to school meals. The rule severely limits states’ ability to make low-income residents eligible for SNAP aid based on their eligibility for other public benefits and it would also further burden state agencies that administer SNAP at a time when they are already overwhelmed by increased demand. Just last month, Attorney General Becerra joined a multistate coalition in a letter urging the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture to halt efforts to move forward with this rule.

Standardization of State Heating and Cooling Standard Utility Allowances: This rule would change states’ ability to account for the costs of utilities, including home heating and cooling, as they calculate SNAP household benefits. The change will result in 19 percent of SNAP households receiving lower SNAP monthly benefits and will disproportionately affect Americans who are uniquely vulnerable at this time — seniors and people with disabilities. According to the federal government’s own impact analysis, 26.4 percent of households with an elderly member would lose an average of $36 per month and 30.4 percent of households with an individual with a disability would lose an average of $35 per month.

During COVID-19, Attorney General Becerra remains committed to protecting Californians and people across the country. Earlier this month, the Attorney General urged Congress to support the families of first responders by passing the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020. He called on the Trump Administration to provide meaningful protections for meat and poultry processing plant workers forced to work in extremely unsafe conditions by the President’s executive order invoking the Defense Production Act. And he also filed misdemeanor price gouging charges against a California grocery store operator for allegedly increasing prices on food items by as much as 200 percent. In April, the Attorney General issued a bulletin to help ensure law enforcement agencies across California have the necessary information and tools to continue to respond to hate crime activity during the COVID-19 crisis. More information on the California Department of Justice’s efforts to protect the public during COVID-19 is available on the Attorney General’s website at https://oag.ca.gov/consumers/COVID-19.

In submitting the letter, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as the City of New York.

A copy of the letter is available here.

September 29, 2020: Representative Salud Carbajal (Democrat – California) tweeted: “SNAP funding helps 55k Central Coast residents put food on the table. Today marks 40yrs since this critical bill was made law! #SNAPsince77”

The tweet included a graphic titled “Fighting Hunger in America”.

SNAP helps families facing hunber put food on the table, but for many these benefits often run out before the end of the month, leading to:

  • An increase in hospital admissions from low blood sugar
  • More disciplinary events among school children
  • Poorer test performance among low-income students

THIS BLOG WILL BE UPDATED WHENEVER RELEVANT, CREDIBLE, INFORMATION IS FOUND.

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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