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Proposed SNAP SUA Rule

Protect the Power of SNAP for Hungry New Yorkers

Comments needed by December 2, 2019

We need your help once again to push back on the Administration’s third attack on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) this year. SNAP is the nation’s first line of defense against hunger.

The Latest:

On October 3, 2019, USDA published another proposed rule that would cut SNAP benefits—this time a net total of $4.5 billion over five years. The cut results from changes in how states calculate a Standard Utility Allowance (SUA) for determining a household’s utility costs. Household utility costs affect the amount of SNAP benefits a household receives.

How SNAP and SUA work:

When a household applies for SNAP, certain expenses are taken into account when determining the household’s SNAP budget (and thus, the amount of SNAP benefits received). Among them are utility costs. However, instead of using a household’s actual utility costs, states set a Standard Utility Allowance (SUA) that is used for all households deducting these expenses. Under current federal SNAP rules, states have the flexibility to set SUA amounts that reflect the typical costs of utilities in their region. States consider every day utility costs—heating, cooling, cooking, electricity for lights and appliances, trash collection, water/sewer, and phone service—when calculating a SUA, and set utility allowances to cover most SNAP household energy expenses during the highest energy usage months. 

Proposed changes:

USDA has proposed a “one-size-fits-all” rule that would force many states to lower the value of allowed utility expenses to a limit set by USDA. This change would be especially detrimental to high energy cost states like New York, where those expenses are among the highest in the nation.

How SUA works in NYS:

Because utility costs are higher in certain parts of New York State, the state has set three regions, each with different SUA levels: New York City (the highest SUA level), Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk counties), and the remainder of the state (the lowest SUA level of the three). SNAP recipients living in New York City and Long Island will be especially hard hit by the proposed changes because the SUA levels are higher and those regions will see a greater decline in the standard allowance. 

Impacts in New York State

  • 450,000 households in NYS lose an average of $63.00/month in SNAP benefits
  • Net SNAP benefits reduced 8% statewide
  • More than $354 million of cuts in SNAP benefits per year, or $29.5 million per month

Impacts Nationally

7 million people in 3 million households will lose a portion of their SNAP benefits. Of them, 

  • 68% are households with children
  • 20% are households with senior
  • 29% are households with a person with a disability

This rule sidesteps Congress.

Congress reviewed SNAP policy during the 2018 Farm Bill, including states’ options that may produce differences in SNAP eligibility benefit amounts from state to state. Although the President’s FY 2020 Budget included a request for a change similar to the proposed rule, Congress did not include such a change in the 2018 Farm Bill.  

Say ‘No’ to this proposed rule:

Hunger Solutions New York is working with our national partners, including Feeding America, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), and Center for American Progress (CAP), to coordinate resources and technical assistance for submission of individually tailored comments that USDA must consider before issuing a final rule.

We need you, your volunteers, clients, and others to submit individual comments in opposition to the rule. Use any of the digital comment platform options below. Comments need not be technical or lengthy, but it is important that they are unique. Identical comments can be counted as a single comment.

Comments must be received by USDA on or before December 2, 2019.

—sample comment template available for download on this page

Additional Resources

From FRAC:

Social Media graphics:

SNAP SUA graphics

#SNAPShots graphics

SNAP Strengths graphics

From Hunger Solutions New York:

SNAP Prescreening Guide pgs. 55 to 57 for more detailed information on SUA’s in NYS