SACRAMENTO , April 21, 2020 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a coalition of 22 attorneys general and the City of New York in a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue calling on the Trump Administration to halt efforts to move forward on a proposed rule that threatens food security for millions of Americans. The proposed rule attacks the existing process around categorical eligibility that makes it easier for states to flexibly administer the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in line with actual community needs. In the letter, the coalition highlights the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on working families and asserts that now is not the time to move forward on a rule that would take food away from families in need.
“Slamming the door on food assistance for families in need goes against our core value of giving everyone an opportunity to succeed,” said Attorney General Becerra.“As our coalition notes, it is critical that people who are supposed to stay at home are able to have food on the table at home. Taking away the lifeline SNAP provides while an unprecedented number of Americans are losing their jobs, their paychecks, and their ability to put food on the table is unconscionable. That’s why we’re calling on Secretary Perdue to put a halt to this callous rule and protect working families who are struggling in the face of this economic and public health crisis.”
In a comment letter last year, Attorney General Becerra called on the Trump Administration to withdraw its proposal on categorical eligibility for SNAP. In the letter, he asserted that the proposed rule undermines SNAP’s original goals of alleviating hunger and malnutrition in low-income households. The proposal would inhibit the states’ ability to administer SNAP based on actual local need, and effectively limit the number of households and individuals that are eligible to enroll in the program. Specifically, the proposed rule would categorically eliminate certain individuals from being automatically eligible for SNAP based on their existing qualification for other federal need-based programs.
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In the letter sent today, the coalition calls on the USDA to act in accordance with the federal government’s own directive to prioritize all resources to slow the spread of COVID-19. In the letter, the coalition urges the USDA to immediately focus all resources on the critical issues working families face in responding to the coronavirus, not on finalizing the proposed rule to deny SNAP benefits to millions of people. Finalizing the proposed rule now would put an undue burden on state agencies on the front lines of the response to COVID-19.
In sending the letter, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, New York, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as the City of New York.
A copy of the letter is available here.