Attributed to Kate Leone, Chief Government Relations Officer
“Feeding America is disappointed that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) continues to push a policy that will take billions of meals away from people struggling with hunger with the publication of their proposed rule to restrict states’ ability to waive time limits on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in high unemployment areas. USDA projects that the proposed rule would cut $15 billion in benefits from the program over a decade. Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, calculates that this would result in a loss of more than 8.5 billion meals from the tables of people facing hunger. This rule would increase the risk of food insecurity for nearly one million people, which would put additional pressure on our network of 200 member food banks. Private charity simply cannot compensate for the breadth of the impact of cuts to the program, as SNAP provides 12 meals for each meal provided by Feeding America.
“Presently, unemployed or underemployed adults without dependents face strict time limits for receiving benefits if they are unable to find work. Specifically, adults ages 18 to 50 who do not receive disability benefits and do not have children are only able to receive SNAP benefits for three months, over the course of a three-year period, unless they are working at least 20 hours a week or taking part in a comparable workforce program or training.
“Current law permits states to waive this rule temporarily in areas with elevated unemployment. Nearly every state has opted to use these waivers at some time. The proposed rule would effectively do away with state waivers by restricting the underlying criteria upon which waiver requests can be granted and expanding the grounds upon which they can be denied.
“This rule is aimed at individuals who are in great need of our help—people without resources who are unemployed. While participating in SNAP, the average income of an unemployed or underemployed adult without dependents is just 18 percent of the poverty line or about $2,171 per year in 2018. On average, that person’s SNAP benefit equates to $170 per month. It is inconceivable that we would deny food assistance to a person trying to live on just over $2,000 annually.
“The reality of low-wage employment is that individuals often face volatile job schedules and insufficient work hours, even if they are willing to work more. Over the past several weeks, the government shutdown provided a stark illustration of the impact one missed paycheck can make, and how little control workers have over their schedules. Ironically, this rule poses a threat to low-income workers, including federal employees and contractors, who in the event of another extended shutdown could find their hours insufficient to meet program rules, threatening access to critical nutrition they need.
“Feeding America is leading the effort against this proposal and encouraging others to do the same. The public has 60 days to submit comments to USDA – deadline April 2, 2019 – and it is imperative that the Administration hear just how dangerous this proposal is to the health and well-being of many Americans. We encourage the public to submit comments in opposition to this proposal, and we encourage the Administration to rescind this rule.”
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About Feeding America
Feeding America® is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Through a network of more than 200 food banks, 21 statewide food bank associations, and over 60,000 partner agencies, food pantries and meal programs, we helped provide 5.3 billion meals to tens of millions of people in need last year. Feeding America also supports programs that prevent food waste and improve food security among the people we serve; brings attention to the social and systemic barriers that contribute to food insecurity in our nation; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.