USDA to publish rule ending SNAP ‘broad-based categorical eligibility’
The Trump administration today will release a rule that the Agriculture Department estimates will take Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamp benefits away from more than 3 million people, saving the government $2.5 billion per year.
In a telephone call Monday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Brandon Lipps, the Agriculture deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, told reporters that USDA would publish a proposed rule to end what they called the “broad-based categorical eligibility loophole” that has allowed people to be qualified for SNAP benefits without going through what Lipps called “a robust eligibility determination” for up to two years while receiving benefits.
The proposed rule will be published today and subject to a 60-day public comment period beginning Wednesday.
Perdue said it is USDA’s responsibility to make sure that “those who need food” get it, but said that states have “taken advantage” of a rule that allowed the states to qualify people easily.
Perdue cited the case of a Minnesota millionaire who managed to qualify for SNAP benefits using broad-based categorical eligibility as an example of why the regulation should be changed.
Anti-hunger advocates and Democrats on Capitol Hill, including House Agriculture Nutrition and Departmental Operations Subcommittee Chair Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, have said that the case repeatedly cited by the Republicans is unrepresentative of the people who need the food purchasing power.
Anti-hunger advocates have said that broad-based categorical eligiblity has allowed states to strengthen SNAP’s rules to encourage work and savings among low-income households.
The option “allows states to raise SNAP income eligibility limits so that many working-poor families that have difficulty making ends meet, such as because they face expenses for costly housing or child care that consume a sizable share of their income, can receive help affording adequate food,” the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explained.
“This option also allows states to adopt less restrictive asset tests so that families, seniors and people with a disability can have modest savings without losing SNAP.”
Lipps said people who have gotten benefits as minimal as a brochure under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program have qualified for SNAP.
A total of 43 states and territories use broadbased-categorical eligibility, which means that the impact of the rule change would be broad throughout the country.
About 36 million people got SNAP benefits in April, down from about 45 million at the height of the post-2008 Great Recession. The rule would remove about 3.1 million people or 8% of current beneficiaries from the SNAP rolls, USDA said.
Lipps emphasized that to confer automatic eligibility for SNAP under the proposal, a household must receive TANF-funded cash or non-cash benefits valued at a minimum of $50 per month for at least six months. In addition, non-cash benefits that could convey automatic eligibility would be restricted to subsidized employment, work supports or childcare.
People who apply for TANF and are eligible under categorical eligibility will not have to go through the application process a second time, Lipps said.
About 300,000 children are expected to lose their automatic eligibility for free school lunch, but Lipps said USDA expects that almost all the children will still qualify for free school lunch if they go through the normal application process.
Democrats and anti-hunger advocates reacted negatively to the proposal.
Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said, “This proposal is yet another attempt by this administration to circumvent Congress and make harmful changes to nutrition assistance that have been repeatedly rejected on a bipartisan basis.”