The Trump administration has used a series of regulatory changes to dramatically cut food assistance. This is being done despite Congress’s explicit efforts to protect people struggling with hunger in the 2018 Farm Bill reauthorization.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formally food stamps) is the cornerstone of our nation’s nutrition safety net. The program helps millions of people feed their families and move out of poverty. FCNL believes that God dwells in each human soul, and that everyone has the right to live with dignity. For many, this means accessing SNAP benefits when times are hard.
Taken together, these changes are part of a broader, systematic effort to cut programs that help people who are struggling with poverty.
Regulations are proposed by government agencies to clarify existing laws and create new rules. The Trump Administration has used this power to create new regulations to advance the President’s policy agenda without input from Congress – or in this case, directly contradict Congress’s intent. While each of the new rules imposed by the administration are different in their scope and focus, they all have the same impact: individuals and families will have a harder time accessing food in times of hardship.
What Has Changed?
On Dec. 4, the administration finalized a rule that would make it harder for states to waive work requirements for SNAP recipients who are struggling to find work. It will go into effect on April 1, 2020.
FCNL opposes this rule. States need the flexibility to extend access to food assistance in times of increased hardship—like a recession—when work is difficult to find. This change places undue burdens on faith-based organizations to attempt to fill the gaps in need and fails to promote work or strengthen employment while harming individuals who are already working.
Reduced SNAP Eligibility
On Dec. 3, the comment period for another proposed rule closed. This rule would lower SNAP benefits by $4.5 billion over five years by standardizing the State Heating and Cooling Standard Utility Allowances—a measure many states use to determine SNAP eligibility. The result? Nineteen percent of households receiving SNAP would receive lower monthly benefits.
FCNL opposes this proposed rule because it would force low income families to spend more on expenses like utilities instead of food, and would have an outsized impact on low-income families and marginalized communities.
Limiting Access to SNAP
In September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed a rule that would limit individual and family access to SNAP by restricting states’ ability to waive income an asset tests for certain populations. FCNL opposes this proposed rule because it would expose more people to the income limit and asset test, reduce the administrative efficiency and economic impact of SNAP, and force 3.1 million people to lose their SNAP benefits. Some 500,000 children would lose automatic access to free school lunches as a result.
A Coordinated Attack on Our Nation’s Nutrition Safety Net
Government action that makes life harder for vulnerable families is morally unjust.
Together these proposals represent a coordinated effort by the Trump administration to undermine the SNAP program that Congress approved through the 2018 Farm Bill reauthorization. During the reauthorization, a bipartisan majority debated and rejected these very changes. Instead of listening to Congress, the administration chose to circumvent the legislative branch entirely.
No change in statute or regulation prompted the USDA to make these regulatory changes. Rather, the administration is choosing to implement policies that would weaken SNAP and increase hardship for people struggling with hunger. Taken together, they are part of a broader, systematic effort to cut programs that help people who are struggling with poverty. Government action that makes life harder for vulnerable families is morally unjust. The federal government should be looking for ways to strengthen the positive impacts of SNAP, not making cuts to nutrition assistance.
FCNL lobbied Congress and supported efforts to protect and strengthen SNAP during the Farm Bill negotiations in 2018, and we will continue to advocate for policies that uplift those who are struggling to access the help they need. We will stand vigilant in the face of efforts like these to weaken vital anti-poverty programs.