Feeding America Statement on USDA Proposal to Restrict SNAP Eligibility

July 23, 2019

“Feeding America’s network of member food banks see firsthand every day how the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps individuals struggling with food insecurity. We know that SNAP is a lifeline for millions of Americans, so we must strongly oppose the administration’s current effort to reduce eligibility for this assistance that helps put food on the table for so many people we serve.  The proposal announced today would restrict state flexibility to eliminate the SNAP asset test and use a higher-income test to serve more working households with significant expenses.

“SNAP is the first line of defense for food-insecure households. Restricting ‘Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility’ (‘Cat El’) would eliminate SNAP benefits for more than 3 million people by USDA’s own estimates. It would also take free school meals away from hundreds of thousands of children whose enrollment is linked to their families’ SNAP participation.

“In short, the proposed rule would increase the risk of food insecurity for millions of children, seniors and working families while putting additional strains on household budgets – and pressure on hunger-relief organizations. Currently, for each meal provided by Feeding America food banks, SNAP provides nine meals. Private charity simply cannot compensate for the breadth of the impact of cuts to the SNAP program.

“Restricting Cat-El would also make the benefit cliff effect more likely in SNAP, undermining support for working families who face high costs for childcare, shelter and other basic needs. Today, Cat El protects SNAP eligibility for workers as their income rises above the federal income cut-off, ensuring SNAP benefits slowly taper off rather than stop abruptly and preventing a situation where a higher paying job or more work hours would result in fewer family resources. By restricting categorical eligibility, people will have a disincentive to work, punishing those trying to do the right thing by working more hours, seeking better-paying jobs, or saving money so unexpected bills don’t push them under water.

“The proposed rule would also leave states less able to cushion the blow for households whose economic circumstances are suddenly weakened by a natural disaster or economic downturn. And, it would add complexities and administrative costs, thereby undermining program efficiencies – ultimately harming individuals needing assistance.

“We urge the administration to rescind the rule and instead work to increase SNAP participation so more families can worry less about putting food on the table and focus more on getting back on their feet.

“Once published in the federal register tomorrow, the public will have 60 days to generate comments on this proposal, a process 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.”


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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.