SACRAMENTO, June 1, 2020 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a coalition of 24 attorneys general and the City of New York in a letter urging Congress to block the Trump Administration’s attempts to eliminate vital food assistance for millions of Americans during this time of unprecedented uncertainty. In the letter, the coalition expresses support for provisions of the HEROES Act that would prohibit appropriations to implement administrative rules that would restrict access to critically necessary benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). With nearly 40 million Americans having filed for unemployment in recent weeks, protecting and expanding SNAP should be among Congress’s top priorities during this economic and public health crisis.
“Despite the effects of an ongoing public health crisis, the Trump Administration is still focused on ripping away critical support from working families,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We all have to work together to protect access to important programs like SNAP, healthcare, and housing assistance that benefit millions of American children and families. That’s why we’re calling on Congress to step up and join us in this effort.”
The HEROES Act, as passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, would prohibit appropriations for the following rules related to SNAP:
Requirements for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents: This rule threatens to push nearly 700,000 struggling Americans off of SNAP by restricting states’ ability to extend benefits to individuals beyond a three-month period. In addition, the rule would force states to ignore localized assessments in favor of overly broad unemployment metrics. Following a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General and other state partners, the rule has been blocked from going into effect while litigation is ongoing.
Revision of Categorical Eligibility: This rule undermines food security for 3.1 million Americans and puts approximately 265,000 children at risk of losing access to school meals. The rule severely limits states’ ability to make low-income residents eligible for SNAP aid based on their eligibility for other public benefits and it would also further burden state agencies that administer SNAP at a time when they are already overwhelmed by increased demand. Just last month, Attorney General Becerra joined a multistate coalition in a letter urging the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture to halt efforts to move forward with this rule.
Standardization of State Heating and Cooling Standard Utility Allowances: This rule would change states’ ability to account for the costs of utilities, including home heating and cooling, as they calculate 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. According to the federal government’s own impact analysis, 26.4 percent of households with an elderly member would lose an average of $36 per month and 30.4 percent of households with an individual with a disability would lose an average of $35 per month.
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During COVID-19, Attorney General Becerra remains committed to protecting Californians and people across the country. Earlier this month, the Attorney General urged Congress to support the families of first responders by passing the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020. He called on the Trump Administration to provide meaningful protections for meat and poultry processing plant workers forced to work in extremely unsafe conditions by the President’s executive order invoking the Defense Production Act. And he also filed misdemeanor price gouging charges against a California grocery store operator for allegedly increasing prices on food items by as much as 200 percent. In April, the Attorney General issued a bulletin to help ensure law enforcement agencies across California have the necessary information and tools to continue to respond to hate crime activity during the COVID-19 crisis. More information on the California Department of Justice’s efforts to protect the public during COVID-19 is available on the Attorney General’s website at https://oag.ca.gov/consumers/COVID-19.
In submitting the letter, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, 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.