SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a coalition of 22 attorneys general and the City of New York in a letter urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to step up efforts to help states ensure continued access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) during the ongoing pandemic. Despite previously granting state requests to accommodate operational changes made in light of COVID-19, the Trump Administration has reversed course. Now, USDA is unevenly denying requests to accommodate such changes at state agencies, creating an untenable situation that puts access to food assistance at risk for low-income families across the country.
“This unprecedented crisis calls for unprecedented coordination to protect the most vulnerable among us,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We have to do everything we can to help families keep food on their tables. Nobody wins when the Trump Administration unevenly denies state governments the flexibility they need to provide access to SNAP. States are hard at work adjusting to the pandemic. We’re calling on the federal government to show some leadership and join us in that effort.”
State agencies have been working tirelessly for many months to ensure that SNAP recipients can continue to have access to food assistance in the midst of the current public health crisis. The operational adjustments previously granted by USDA have been crucial in easing regulatory burdens so that state agencies can focus their resources on issuing SNAP benefits even as caseloads have increased drastically and state budget freezes have prevented agencies from hiring additional personnel. Rather than continuing to allow accommodations, USDA and the Food and Nutrition Service have told states that operational adjustments approved earlier in the public health crisis would now be extended only on a very limited basis.
However, the end of the pandemic is not yet in sight. All states and the federal government still have active public health emergency declarations. Exacerbating the challenges, USDA’s criteria for allowing operational adjustments appear to have become increasingly stringent and have been inconsistently applied to the states. Because the ability to return to “normal” will likely take many months, it is unreasonable to expect that any state agency can shift their operations back to pre-pandemic status at this time. In the letter to USDA, the coalition urges the federal government to provide more long-term, readily approvable operational adjustments to assist states in prioritizing helping SNAP recipients provide food to their families while coping with the longer-term constraints caused by the pandemic.
Attorney General Becerra is committed to protecting working families in California and across the country. Earlier this year, the Attorney General urged Congress to pass legislation to expand access to SNAP in the face of continued Trump Administration efforts to eliminate vital food assistance for millions of Americans during the pandemic. He also filed a lawsuit challenging a Trump Administration rule undermining access to SNAP. Earlier this month, Attorney General Becerra stepped up the legal pressure against the Trump Administration’s attacks on the U.S. Postal Service that have slowed down the timely delivery of medications and paychecks. Last month, he secured a critical early court victory against the Trump Administration’s attempts to siphon pandemic relief funds away from public schools. In August and July, Attorney General Becerra filed separate lawsuits challenging Trump Administration regulations that green-light predatory lending schemes. In June, he called on Walmart to step up efforts to protect workers and the public during COVID-19.
In sending the letter, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as the City of New York.
A copy of the letter is available here.