Monday, Sept. 30, 2019
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel last week joined 23 other Attorneys General to oppose the federal government’s proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that would strip away benefits from 144,188 individuals in 79,901 Michigan households.
The Attorneys General filed a comment letter against the rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that would end states’ ability to set rules for SNAP eligibility based on the unique needs of their communities. The letter argues that the rule would violate federal law and harm the states, their residents, their local economies, and public health.
“This proposed rule is entirely unacceptable and exhibits a blatant disregard for more than 10 percent of SNAP recipients in Michigan,” said Nessel. “I am horrified that the federal government feels comfortable not only in depriving adults of the essential assistance needed to put food on their tables, but also denying 58,743 Michigan children from eating lunch at school and consequently impacting their ability to learn. ”
The USDA’s proposed rule – “Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” – would affect the SNAP program, the country’s most important anti-hunger program referred to as “food stamps.” The program provides residents with limited incomes access to nutritious food they otherwise would not have. SNAP is a crucial component of federal and state efforts to help lift people out of poverty.
Based on federal guidelines, each state designs its own process for how low-income residents apply for SNAP benefits. The states must track whether participants meet the income and asset requirements for the program on a monthly basis.
The federal government’s proposed rule would eliminate a long-standing policy known as “broad based categorical eligibility” (BBCE). BBCE allows states to consider local economic factors like high costs of living or costs of childcare when determining eligibility for SNAP. It also allows states to adopt less restrictive asset limits so that families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities can attempt to save money without losing food aid. BBCE is used by 39 states including Michigan, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Attorneys General argue in their comment letter that the proposed rule harms the states by:
The Attorneys General also argue that the proposed rule violates the federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which governs how federal agencies implement rule changes. Among other violations of the APA, the proposed rule fails to provide a legitimate justification for changing longstanding USDA policy, conflicts with the clear intent of Congress, and exceeds USDA’s authority.
Nessel joins the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin in submitting the letter to the USDA.
A copy of the letter is available here.