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Proposed Elimination of SNAP Categorical Eligibility

The categorical eligibility comment period closed on September 23. Thank you to all who submitted a comment about this proposed rule.  We will provide updates on this issue as they become available. 

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The Proposed USDA Rule to Restrict SNAP Benefits: Understanding the Rule and Taking Action

Co-hosted by the Food Bank for New York City

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Tell the Administration–Again: It’s Unacceptable to Take Food Away from Working Families, Children, Seniors, and People with Disabilities.

Aug 1, 2019: Food assistance is at risk—again. Just months after Congress and the Administration debated and reauthorized SNAP through the Farm Bill, the Administration is now proposing to implement, through executive action, a second SNAP benefits cut by eliminating Broad Based Categorical Eligibility.

The current policy of Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility (or Cat El) allows states to eliminate the SNAP asset test, and use a slightly higher income test so that more working families, families with children, seniors and people with disabilities with significant housing and dependent care expenses can still qualify for SNAP.

New York is one of 40 states that effectively uses this option to ease the benefit cliff for working households; allow families, seniors, and people with disabilities to maintain modest savings without losing SNAP food assistance; and make it easier and more cost effective to administer SNAP in our state.

By eliminating these options, the proposal would take away SNAP benefits for 3.1 million individuals nationwide. What’s more, if a SNAP household with school-age children loses benefits, those children would lose automatic eligibility for free school meals, placing additional financial burden on parents and increased risk for food-insecurity on vulnerable children.   

Impact on New York State

Proposed change in income test:

87,835 New Yorkers

(2.3% of SNAP households with earnings or children) immediately lose eligibility for SNAP because their current household income exceed 130% of poverty.

Proposed reimposition of assets test:

88,000 New Yorkers

denied eligibility for SNAP because their current assets exceed the asset test for SNAP. Almost half of them are children.

Other impacts:

39,000 Children

(estimated) lose automatic eligibility for free school meals.

Nationally, the rule will result in a $3 billion cut in SNAP benefits in the first year and a $25 to $30 billion dollar cut over 10 years.       

Cat El primarily helps families with high expenses:

  • more than 90% of the resulting benefits go to households whose shelter costs exceed half of their net income,
  • about 50% go to households who pay for dependent care for a child or elderly or disabled household member, and
  • three-quarters of the benefits go to households with gross incomes between 131% and 150% of the poverty line.

Cat El policies have been in place for more than two decades. Congress rejected efforts to gut Cat El, including during its consideration of the 2005 budget reconciliation and most recently during the 2018 Farm Bill. This USDA rulemaking is an attempt to side step Congress and is outside USDA’s authority.

Impact Nationally:

3.1 million Americans

(1.7 million households) affected, including:

  • 1.9 million individuals in families with children
  • 1.8 million individuals in families with earnings
  • 300,000 families that include a person with a disability
  • More than 600,000 seniors over the age of 60
  • An estimated 500,000 children lose automatic eligibility for free school meals

We need your help once again!

The 60-day comment period started on July 24 when the proposed rule was published in the Federal Register, and ends September 23. Public comments are an important part of the public process, and we need to demonstrate through a volume of comments that these cuts would harm struggling people. 

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) who are coordinating resources and technical assistance to help with submission of individually tailored comments that will count for the input that USDA must take into account before issuing a final rule.

We need you, your volunteers, clients and others to submit individual comments in opposition to the rule. Feel free to use any of the digital comment platform options below that work best for your organization. Comments need not be technical or lengthy. But it is important that comments are unique or else identical comments (submitted using a template) can be counted as a single comment.

Comments must be received by USDA on or before September 23, 2019

Additional Resources

From FRAC:

Broad-based Categorical Eligibility and School Meals

Trump Administration’s Latest Proposal Would Increase Hunger for Children at Home and at School —By Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers President

Social media graphics you can use

From Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

CBPP 7/24/19 paper on importance of Broad Based Categorical Eligibility

Hunger Solutions New York background on how Cat El works in NYS:

SNAP in NYS: An Eligibility Prescreening Guide (pages 45-47)

Cat El Desk Guide