Food & Justice News August 1st 2019
- USDA Proposes Cuts in SNAP Food Assistance: Please Comment Before September 23rd
- Food As Medicine Getting Some Political Attention
- Long Beach Clearing Warrants for People with Non Violent Offenses: This Saturday August 3rd
USDA Proposes Cuts in SNAP Food Assistance: Please Comment Before September 23rd
Trump is at it again. He wants to cut food stamps (SNAP) off from 3 million people by getting rid of a rule that lets some people with kids get the benefit even if their income is over the usual limit (But still UNDER 185% of poverty, which is still pretty broke, especially in LA with housing costs and child care.) Eliminating this proposed rule might also end school meals for half a million kids in the US, through enrollment procedures that connect SNAP enrollment to school meals.
Trump’s US Department of Agriculture is submitting this proposed rule change, but we can OPPOSE it by submitting comments by email. Comments can be submitted at the federal regulations website, but Food Research and Action Center has created a more user friendly form through which comments can be sent and relayed to the federal government. Use the form at this link to submit a comment opposing a proposal to amend a SNAP categorical eligibility rule:
Written comments must be received on or before September 23, 2019 to be assured of consideration.
Here is a link to the proposed change:
First District LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina has already responded, with a Board motion to oppose the cuts:
Also, more than 40 California Democrats in Congress wrote to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asking the administration to withdraw this proposal.
"As members of Congress committed to an effective federal nutrition assistance program, we worked hard to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill that maintained states' flexibility to opt into broad-based categorical eligibility," the lawmakers wrote in the letter. "We urge you to take into consideration the harmful effects of this proposed rule and act quickly to rescind it." (Bottemiller Evich, Politico 2019)
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 child care, 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.
Food As Medicine Getting Some Political Attention
In late 2017, Ronald Nagby, an SSI recipient who is part of Hunger Action LA, appeared on a video widely circulated to state legislators in which he explained that with a $900 per month income, he couldn’t afford to eat properly, depending largely on donated, starchy salty foods not conducive to his diabetes. He estimated that the state and federal government spent $40,000 annually on his health care, with multiple medications, insulins and visits to the endocrinologist. He had noted that his diabetes would stabilize on hospital visits for other conditions (a knee replacement one time, cancer another.) This was due to the better diet he received while in care.
Upon release from the hospital, his blood sugar would go through the roof. Ronald said that an extra $100 to $200 per month would enable him to afford a diet that would keep his diabetes manageable, and save the government(s) $40,000 in medical costs.
The connection between diet and preventative health (rather than treating diseases after it’s too late) has been made for a long, long time. But in the past week it’s gotten prominent attention in a couple of places.
The Fiscal Times reported on the “Number of the Day” being $1.57. That’s the amount Medicare could save for each dollar spent on meals for patients who need improved diets to avoid more costly medical care:
A new study from the Bipartisan Policy Center says that Medicare would save $1.57 for every dollar it spends delivering healthy food to elderly beneficiaries who have recently been discharged from the hospital. The savings would come from a reduction in the rate of readmissions to the hospital for patients suffering from a wide range of common ailments, including rheumatoid arthritis, congestive heart failure, diabetes and emphysema.
“If you were going to offer meals to every Medicare beneficiary, it would be cost-prohibitive,” said BPC’s Katherine Hayes. “By targeting it to a very, very sick group of people is how we were able to show there could be savings.” (The Fiscal Times, 2019)
Anyone watching the debates between the Democratic presidential candidates Tuesday night might have noticed certain comments from Tim Ryan. He was responding to comments about climate change, and proceeded to make the connection between climate change and our current, unsustainable industrial agriculture system, healthy food, and saving money on health care costs. The original comments were interrupted occasionally by rival candidate Amy Klobuchar and by audience applause, but essentially he said:
…you cannot get there on climate unless we talk about agriculture. We need to convert our industrial agriculture system over to a sustainable and regenerative agriculture system...
: ... that actually sequesters carbon...... into the soil. And you can go ask -- you can go ask Gabe Brown and Allen Williams, who actually make money off of regenerative agriculture. So we can move away...
... from all the subsidies that we're giving the farmers. They haven't made a profit in five years. And we could start getting good food into our schools and into our communities. And that's going to drive health care down. That's another part of the health care conversation...
: ... that we didn't even have. How do we start talking about health...: ... instead of just disease care?
Of course, this wasn’t the first input any of the candidates have had on this issue. Civil Eats several months ago ran an article on where all of the candidates stand on food and farming:
Long Beach Clearing Warrants for People with Non Violent Offenses: This Saturday August 3rd
Those tagged in Long Beach with non-violent offenses will get an opportunity to clear outstanding warrants this weekend.
The Long Beach Police Department is hosting a warrant-clearing event on Saturday, Aug. 3, in an effort to reduce the approximate 70,000 warrants in its system and help people with non-felony, non-violent warrants get cleared without an arrest.
More than 185 people got help during the department’s past three warrant-servicing events.
“We are pleased with the success of the past warrant-servicing events,” Lt. Dina Zapalski said in a statement, “and look forward to providing our community with another opportunity to clear their record of any non-violent warrants.”
Participants will get the warrant removed from the department’s system and receive a new court date.
The warrants were issued for failing to appear in court or failure to comply with probation conditions.
If you go
When: 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug 3.
Where: Long Beach City College, Pacific Coast Campus, 1305 E. Pacific Coast Highway. Parking is available in Lot 1.
Fiscal Times Staff. 2019 "Number of the Day: $1.57" The Fiscal Times. Retrieved July 25, 2019 (https://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2019/07/25/Number-Day-157)
Helena Bottemiller Evich, Politico. 2019. via Congressman Jimmy Panetta "California Democrats Urge Usda To Rescind Rule To Curb Snap Eligibility" Politico Pro subscription-based News Service. Retrieved July 26, 2019 (https://panetta.house.gov/media/in-the-news/california-democrats-urge-usda-rescind-rule-curb-snap-eligibility) original source (subscription required): (California Democrats urge USDA to rescind rule to curb SNAP eligibility).