Food & Justice News July 23rd, 2019
- USDA Proposes Cuts in SNAP Food Assistance: Public Comment Period of 60 Days Begins Wednesday July 24
- And: Trump Administration Is Trying to Limit Scientific Input on Nutrition Advice
USDA Proposes Cuts in SNAP Food Assistance:
Public Comment Period of 60 Days Begins Wednesday, July 24
From Bloomberg: “The Trump administration is moving to end food stamp benefits (known federally as SNAP and as CalFresh here in California) for 3 million people with proposed new regulations curtailing the leeway of states to automatically enroll residents who receive welfare benefits.”
Here is a link to the proposed change:
USDA encourages all interested parties to provide input on the proposed rule change through www.regulations.gov. The comment period will be open for 60 days. In the upcoming days, there will be other websites set up to take comments as well that will be easier to navigate than the official government site.
What is the current rule?
Under a rule passed many years ago, SNAP benefits can be automatically available to people who receive other federally funded benefits, especially TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families—known as CalWORKs here in California.) This allows people who are still low-income but are over the usual income limit for SNAP, to get food assistance.
The rule is known as “Categorical Eligibility.” Forty states and the District of Columbia currently use the Categorical Eligibility rule and allow participants in some federally funded welfare programs to automatically receive food stamps as long as their income is less than double the poverty level.
What is the proposed change?
The Trump administration rule would limit states’ ability to enroll recipients earning more than 130% of the federal poverty guidelines —in most cases capping eligibility to an annual income of $32,640 for a family of four. This could cut 3 million people nationwide off of benefits.
Who benefits from the current rule?
It’s an especially helpful rule for families that have been getting cash welfare but are working their way off the program (as they are required to do.) Such families often are only able to get part-time work that pays just enough that they wouldn’t usually qualify for SNAP. And they have expenses like childcare, which they need in order to be able to keep working.
Add to that the expenses of daily life—gasoline, high rents, and medical debt among other things—and it’s easy to see how someone who’s over the usual SNAP income limit could have expenses so high that they still need food assistance.
For example here in California, it’s estimated by Western Center on Law and Poverty that 120,000 Californians who are below 200% of the poverty level, most of them working- families, could have benefits cut off. Worse, because of other rules that allow children to be directly enrolled into free school meals if their families are getting SNAP through Categorical Eligibility, 170,000 kids may lose those meals.
Why does the Trump administration want to cut SNAP benefits?
Conservatives have been trying for years to reduce the number of people getting SNAP benefits, which soared to 47 million in 2013 but is now about 36 million.
But if conservatives and particularly the Trump administration are really concerned about reducing the number of people getting SNAP, they’ll pass the minimum wage legislation recently passed in the House of Representatives to raise the wage to $15 per hour.
Conservatives claim the program is being abused under the Categorical Eligibility rule and that as proof, they showed a millionaire who was able to successfully apply for the program under the rules. This was a stunt arranged to show that it could, in theory, be done.
Changes like this to SNAP have already been rejected on a bipartisan basis. Last year, when the Republican-dominated House at the time tried to pass similar revisions to SNAP as part of the Farm Bill, members of both parties in the Senate rejected it. They know that SNAP was one of the main factors in helping states during the recession, by providing spending money for people hurt by poverty. And they also know that millionaires are not lining up to receive the benefits.
How many people would lose benefits and what can we do?
The proposed restrictions would eliminate food stamps for 3 million people at an average annual savings of $2.5 billion.
A final regulation will be issued after a 60-day public comment period. You can comment at www.regulations.gov or at other websites that will be set up soon.
As of April, 36 million Americans received food stamps, with an average monthly benefit of $121 per person, according to the Department of Agriculture. Enrollment has declined as the economy has improved and was down 2.5 million from a year earlier.
And: Trump Administration Is Trying to Limit Scientific Input on Nutrition Advice
From Center on Science in the Public Interest:
The Trump Administration is limiting the science that can be considered as it updates national nutrition advice. I need your help. Please email the USDA today and urge it to use the best available scientific evidence—not just studies by USDA.
Few people are able to follow a diet consistent with the Dietary Guidelines, the nation’s nutrition advice. Inaccurate and conflicting messages about what to eat are pervasive, often resulting from a single, flawed study. That’s why the Dietary Guidelines' synthesis of all the evidence is so important. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses that combine findings, excluding poorly conducted or biased studies, more accurately evaluate the relationships between diet and health.
Every five years, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services update the Dietary Guidelines. This time around they plan to arbitrarily exclude systematic reviews conducted by outside groups, and instead rely only on reviews conducted by USDA. This is an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars, will limit access to the best science, and is a departure from the past. Previous Guidelines used high-quality reviews from outside researchers and organizations.
Please join with other CSPI supporters and take action today to tell USDA to make full use of external, high-quality evidence reviews as it develops the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines.
You can email the USDA today to comment.