Feeding America Statement On Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents Proposed Rule

Attributed to Kate Leone, Chief Government Relations Officer

December 20, 2018

“Today, the Administration released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) and their receipt of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, is deeply dismayed by this proposal, which will force more adults into food insecurity by creating unreasonable restrictions on food assistance. 

“According to recent reports, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects that the proposed rule would cut $15 billion in benefits from the program over a decade, which Feeding America calculates would result in a loss of more than 8.5 billion meals from the tables of individuals facing hunger. USDA’s most recent figures cite 40 million Americans across the United States facing food insecurity. 

“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. 

“By restricting access to ABAWD waivers, this rule would increase the risk of food insecurity for nearly one million people. In turn, that puts pressure on hunger-relief organizations and it is unlikely that our network of food banks can shoulder this burden. For each meal provided by Feeding America, SNAP provides 12 meals.  Private charity simply cannot compensate for the breadth of the impact of cuts to the program. 

“This rule is aimed at individuals who are most in need of our help—people who without resources who are unemployed. While participating in SNAP, the average income of an unemployed or underemployed adult without a family is just 18 percent of the poverty line, or about $2,171, per year, for a single-person household 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. 

“Today, we anticipate the Farm Bill being signed into law. During the years of debate and negotiations to develop that legislation, there were many ideas similar to the Administration’s proposed rule. Congress soundly rejected all of them, and the Farm Bill makes improvements to SNAP by increasing investments in job training and proven workforce management approaches. 

“Once published in the federal register in the coming days, the public will have 60 days to generate comments on this proposal, in which Feeding America will actively participate. 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 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.