• Hawaiʻi State Senate

Hawai'i Attorney General joins coalition to stop SNAP cuts that would leave millions hungry


Hawaii Attorney General Clare E. Connors today joined a coalition of 24 Attorneys General and the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York in urging Congress to block the Trump administration’s attempts to cut vital food assistance for

millions of Americans.



In a letter to Congress, the coalition expressed support for provisions in the House-passed HEROES Act that would prohibit the use of appropriation funds for three U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administrative rules. The rules would cut food assistance under the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) by making it harder to qualify for SNAP food assistance benefits, reducing State flexibility to continue benefits beyond the three-month limit, and reducing benefit amounts for certain households. The coalition argues that, especially during this unprecedented time of economic turmoil due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Congress should work to protect and expand our nation’s largest anti-hunger program.


“We should be collectively working towards making sure everyone has access to

nutritious food,” said Attorney General Connors. “It is imperative, even more so during a

pandemic, that we oppose rules cutting food-assistance to millions of Americans.”

SNAP, previously known as “food stamps,” is our country’s most important anti-hunger

program and a critical part of federal and state efforts to help lift people out of poverty.

The program provides people with limited incomes the opportunity to buy nutritious

food that they otherwise could not afford.


The current pandemic underscores the need to preserve SNAP food assistance. In

March alone, 40 percent of American households with incomes below $40,000 lost

jobs, and from March 15 to May 15 of this year, 40.8 million Americans filed for

unemployment. Unsurprisingly, the number of Americans applying for SNAP benefits

has also spiked. As more Americans struggle to put food on the table with each

passing day, cuts to food assistance programs that millions need to survive would only

compound the suffering of this public health emergency.


In the letter sent to leaders of the House and Senate, the multistate coalition urges

Congress to block the Trump administration’s three SNAP rules because they would:


• Cut SNAP benefits for 700,000 Americans by restricting states from

extending benefit time limits: There is a three-month time limit on SNAP

benefits for unemployed individuals aged 18 to 49 who are not disabled or raising

children—"able-bodied adults without dependents” (ABAWDs). However, states

can acquire a waiver of this time limit for areas where the unemployment rate is

above 10 percent, or if it presents data demonstrating that the area lacks

sufficient jobs for ABAWDs. The ABAWD waiver rule would push nearly 700,000

Americans off SNAP by forcing states to rely on broad unemployment rates—

instead of localized job availability for low-income individuals—in order to extend

SNAP benefits to needy individuals for more than three months. This rule is

currently partially enjoined by a federal court after many states in this coalition

brought suit, and Congress waived SNAP time limits during the public health

emergency in the Families First Act. That common sense measure serves as a

template for future congressional action pertaining to SNAP.


• Remove 3.1 million Americans from SNAP by making it harder to qualify for

benefits: A long-standing policy known as “broad-based categorical eligibility”

(BBCE) allows states to make low-income families automatically eligible for

SNAP benefits if they have already qualified to receive certain other types of

public assistance. Through BBCE, states can extend SNAP benefits to lowincome families that slightly exceed the program’s gross income and asset limits

if they also have significant critical expenses, like childcare, housing, or

education expenses. The Revision of Categorical Eligibility rule would eliminate

SNAP benefits for 3.1 million Americans by restricting states’ ability to use BBCE.

Currently families are allowed to preserve basic emergency savings while

maintaining their eligibility for food assistance under BBCE, but this rule would

effectively require Americans to go completely broke before receiving SNAP

benefits.


• Reduce monthly benefits for SNAP households: SNAP benefits are based on

states’ calculation of net income; the lower the net income, the higher the SNAP

benefits. The Standardization of State Heating and Cooling Standard Utility

Allowances rule would change how states can account for the costs of utilities,

including home heating and cooling, as they calculate net income for SNAP

household benefits. The change will result in 19 percent of SNAP households

receiving lower SNAP monthly benefits and will disproportionately affect

Americans who are uniquely vulnerable at this time—seniors and people with

disabilities.


A copy of the letter is available here: [LINK]


Source: httpL//ag.hawaii.gov

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Copyright 2019 Hawai`i Senate Majority

Hawai`i State Capitol
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Honolulu, HI 96813