Attorney General Becerra Condemns Federal Proposal Limiting Access to Food Assistance for Families in Need

Tuesday, September 24, 2019
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The proposal would revoke food assistance for 3.1 million people nationwide

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a coalition of 24 attorneys general in opposing a U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) proposal that would categorically deny families access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In a comment letter to FNS, the coalition describes how the proposed rule would illegally limit eligibility for SNAP and constrain state flexibility in administering the program.

“This proposed rule slams the door on families in need of assistance and jeopardizes food security for hundreds of thousands of hard-working, low-income Californians,” said Attorney General Becerra. “This federal administration’s constant attempts to undermine work supports that allow the lowest income Americans to continue productively doing some of the most physically demanding jobs in America are atrocious. Whether it's healthcare, housing assistance, or SNAP, we will continue to fight against any action that takes the food off of families’ tables.”

In the comment letter, the coalition asserts that the proposed rule undermines SNAP’s original goals of alleviating hunger and malnutrition in low-income households. Rather than furthering those goals, the rule would inhibit the states’ ability to administer SNAP in a way that reflects actual need based on conditions in each state, effectively limiting the number of households and individuals that are eligible to enroll in the program. Specifically, the rule would categorically eliminate certain individuals from being automatically eligible for SNAP based on their existing qualification for other federal need-based programs. Additionally, the attorneys general maintain that FNS failed to fully assess the impact of the proposed rule and did not consider methods for mitigating the effects of the proposal, violating the Administrative Procedure Act.

SNAP is a partnership between the federal government and the states intended to provide nutritional support for low-income individuals and families. Based on federal guidelines, each state designs its own process for how individuals can apply for benefits and tracks whether participants meet program requirements on a monthly basis. Broad-based categorical eligibility enables the states to help individuals become eligible for SNAP if those individuals have already demonstrated eligibility for benefits funded by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Categorical eligibility, in part, is one tool states can use to mitigate cost-of-living effects that may not be captured by federal poverty measures. The proposed rule limits this ability, and would result in families being categorically denied access to SNAP. According to the federal government’s own estimates, the proposal would revoke food assistance for 3.1 million people nationwide.

Attorney General Becerra is dedicated to defending the health and well-being of Californians. Earlier this year, Attorney General Becerra joined a coalition of attorneys general in fighting to protect SNAP. In April, he joined a multistate lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s reversal of nutrition standards for school meals that protect the health and well-being of students around the country. In July, Attorney General Becerra urged the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to withdraw a proposed rule on housing assistance eligibility, which would risk eviction for tens of thousands of Californians. In August, he led a multistate lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s attempt to discourage hardworking eligible immigrants and their families from accessing critical health, nutrition, and housing programs. In addition, Attorney General Becerra continues to defend the Affordable Care Act in lieu of the federal government, protecting affordable healthcare coverage for millions of Americans around the country.

In submitting the comment letter, Attorney General Becerra joined the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

A copy of the letter is available here. In addition to the letter submitted on behalf of the coalition of attorneys general, the California Department of Social Services also provided comments to FNS and that letter is available here.

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