CHN: Trump Administration Escalates Attempt to Cut Nutrition Assistance; Advocates Fight Back

Anti-hunger advocates are fighting the Trump Administration’s continued efforts to cut nutrition assistance on two fronts, even as new information has emerged that one U.S. Department of Agriculture proposal would cut benefits more sharply than was previously reported.

On the first front, the Administration has proposed curtailing “broad-based categorical eligibility,” which states use to provide SNAP benefits to more low-income households. The comment period for this proposal originally ended in September, but has been extended to Friday, Nov. 1.

The reason for the extension? New USDA data reveals that the proposal could harm as many as 982,000 children, who currently have access to free or reduced price school meals due to their families’ eligibility for SNAP. A previous analysis had estimated that just over 500,000 would be affected. Of the 982,000 children, 497,000 would move from free to reduced-price lunch, while 40,000 would completely lose access to free or reduced-price meals.  Anti-hunger experts are skeptical that only 40,000 would lose all school meals help.  They know that increased paperwork burdens would inevitably cause additional families to lose benefits. As Rep. Bobby Scott noted in a statement, “Even for those who remain eligible, forcing low-income families to navigate the burdensome paperwork will inevitably lead to eligible children losing access to a critical source of daily nutrition.” In addition, under the Community Eligibility Provision, nearly 2,000 schools across the country provide free school meals to all their students because more than 40 percent of their students participate in an anti-poverty program, such as SNAP. If fewer families receive SNAP, some communities may not qualify for the program, increasing bureaucratic hurdles and ensuring that some poor children will no longer receive free meals.

Members of the public can submit comments using this portal; advocates are requesting that even if you commented previously, you should consider submitting an additional comment based on the new data. However, USDA will only take into account comments related to the impact of its proposed rule on school meals.

You can read more about this issue in our Sept. 30 Human Needs Report and you can read CHN’s comments to USDA in opposition to the proposal here.

On the second front, the Administration has proposed a rule that would limit states’ discretion in  taking households’ utility costs into account to determine the amount of SNAP benefits for which they qualify. This rule would cut SNAP by $4.5 billion over five years and would affect about one in every five SNAP households.

Advocates warn that the proposal would exacerbate the struggles many low-income people have in paying for costs of food and utilities; have harmful impacts on health and well-being as well as on the economy.  Of the 3.4 million households facing reduced SNAP benefits, 68 percent are families with children, 20 percent are households with seniors, and 29 percent include a person with a disability.

For more information, and to access the portal for leaving comments, go here. The comment period for this proposal ends Monday, Dec. 2.

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