Editor’s note: The following is crossposted with permission from the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). It is authored Ellen Vollinger, FRAC’s Legal/Food Stamp Director.
In 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed three SNAP rules changes that together threaten to take food away from millions of people in need. USDA was required to review and take into consideration public comments submitted prior to moving forward with final rulemaking.
Here is an update on the status of those USDA attempts to sidestep Congress to cut SNAP, and what advocates can do to continue to oppose implementation of those rules changes.
Insufficient Jobs Area Waivers
On Jan. 16, 15 attorneys general and New York City filed litigation to prevent the Trump administration from implementing a rule change that would take food off the tables of nearly 700,000 people, many of whom struggle to find sufficient hours of work in areas with too few jobs. The rule is scheduled for implementation on April 1, 2020.
The plaintiffs are asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to find the rule unlawful and to issue an injunction to prevent it from taking effect. The lawsuit alleges that the rule undermines Congressional intent, violates the federal rulemaking process, would impose significant regulatory burdens on states, and would harm states’ residents and economies. Joining the attorneys general from the District of Columbia and New York State on the litigation are attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia, along with New York City. The complaint is available here.
More than 100,000 people commented on the proposed rule that would limit state flexibility to protect people in areas with insufficient jobs from a three-month time limit on SNAP eligibility (known as the Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents, or ABAWD, waiver rule).
SNAP and Free School Meals
More than 183,000 people commented on USDA’s proposed rule that would undermine states’ Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility (Cat El) option to get SNAP to more people working their way up the economic ladder. Specifically, states could no longer eliminate SNAP asset tests or apply a SNAP gross income test higher than 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. That rule would eliminate SNAP benefits for 3.1 million people and jeopardize free school meals for 1 million children. The comment period closed in October; no final rule has yet been issued.
Heat and Eat
More than 125,000 people commented on the USDA proposed rule that would cut SNAP benefits by $4.5 billion over 5 years and make it harder for people to afford to heat and eat. The proposal would undercut the impact of the SNAP Standard Utility Allowance (SUA). The comment period closed in December; no final rule has yet been issued.
Advocacy and Education Continue
Litigation and legislative actions could prevent implementation of these SNAP rules changes.
1) educate SNAP participants, the public, and media about the status of these rulemakings;
2) point out likely harmful impacts of these rules changes to inform litigation or legislative efforts; and
3) amplify opposition to the rules changes.
Subscribe to FRAC’s Digest and follow @fractweets and #HandsOffSNAP/#ProtectSNAP for updates on news coverage of the rulemakings, and to add your voice to those speaking out against these negative rules changes.