California Democrats urge USDA to rescind rule to curb SNAP eligibility

July 26, 2019
In The News

More than 40 California Democrats wrote to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today asking the administration to withdraw its proposed rule to crack down on eligibility rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Earlier this week, USDA released a proposal that would curb what's known as broad-based categorical eligibility, a policy that 43 states use to make a greater number of low-income households eligible for SNAP benefits.

"As members of Congress committed to an effective federal nutrition assistance program, we worked hard to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill that maintained states' flexibility to opt into broad-based categorical eligibility," the lawmakers wrote in the letter. "We urge you to take into consideration the harmful effects of this proposed rule and act quickly to rescind it."

The letter was led by Rep. Jimmy Panetta, who represents an agriculture-rich district on the Central Coast of California and serves on the House Agriculture Committee.

Broad-based categorical eligibility allows states to confer SNAP eligibility to households if they're receiving some kind of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, service or benefit. The option allows states to get around the typical asset limits and, in many cases, expand the income limit for eligibility, which makes more low-income households eligible for benefits.

The proposed rule would drop about 3.1 million individuals from the program, USDA estimates. The proposal could remove 120,000 California households from the program, according to the Western Center on Law & Poverty, which contends that most of those households are working.

The lawmakers said they're also worried about low-income students losing access to school meal programs under the proposed rule.