Statement by Kate Leone, Chief Government Relations Officer at Feeding America
“The final rule released today by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will take away food assistance from nearly 700,000 people. The Feeding America network of food banks knows that for people who are struggling to make ends meet, this is exactly the wrong direction. By USDA’s own estimates, this harmful policy will cut $1.1 billion each year in food assistance and result in more than 625 million meals being taken off the tables of people facing hunger each year – or more than 6.2 billion meals over the next decade. USDA’s rule means that during this holiday season there will be people who are unemployed or underemployed who will be wondering how they’ll be able to put food on the table in the new year.
“As the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States, we know that private charity cannot compensate for the breadth of the impact of cuts to the program. For each meal the Feeding America network of 200 member food banks and 60,000 partner pantries and meal programs provides, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nine. The policy changes this regulation makes will increase the risk of food insecurity for nearly 700,000 people – many of whom will turn to local charities for food assistance.
“This rule is one of three harmful policies aimed at SNAP that USDA has released this year alone, even after those very changes were rejected in Congress just last year. Taken together, the three rules combined would do immense damage to the program and lead to millions of SNAP participants having their food assistance reduced or eliminated altogether – particularly seniors, people with disabilities, and working families – and nearly a million children will lose access to school meals.
“Feeding America greatly urges the Administration to rescind this rule and focus on policies that will help provide food to people facing hunger in this country, not take it away.”
Background on the SNAP Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) Rule
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 an approved 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 final 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 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.
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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 6.6 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.