April 21, 2020
Carson City, NV – Today, Nevada Attorney
General Aaron D. Ford called on the Trump Administration to immediately suspend
rulemaking that would cut food assistance for 3.1 million people. In a letter
to the Department of Agriculture (USDA), AG Ford urges the agency not to finalize
a proposed rule that would take Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
benefits of low-income Americans. The rule would also make it harder to qualify
for food benefits and imposes significant new administrative burdens on states.
AG Ford joined by a coalition of 22 attorneys general in this action.
“Many Nevadans have lost their jobs and are trying to find ways
to make ends meet,” said AG Ford. “At its core, SNAP is a federal and
state effort to help lift people out of poverty and provide a lifeline to families
going to bed hungry. At a time when more than 20 million Americans have lost their
jobs, we should be focusing on supporting families throughout this crisis
instead of denying needed assistance.”
The Trump Administration’s proposed rule “Revision of
Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” would
limit families’ access to SNAP, the country’s most important anti-hunger
program, which is often referred to as “food stamps.” SNAP provides people with
limited incomes the opportunity to buy nutritious food that they otherwise
could not afford.
The USDA’s proposed rule would eliminate a long-standing policy
known as “broad-based categorical eligibility” (BBCE). This policy 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 low-income
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. BBCE is used by 39 states including Nevada, the District of Columbia,
Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In the letter sent to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the
multi-state coalition asserts that the USDA should immediately suspend rulemaking
because if the proposed rule is finalized, it would:
food assistance away from 3.1 million people during the pandemic: If the proposed rule is finalized now, over 3.1 million
low-income individuals could lose critical nutrition assistance. These cuts
would hit especially hard at a time when approximately 95 percent of Americans
are under stay-at-home orders, millions of people are out of work, and there
are fully signed Presidential Disaster Declarations in all 50 states and the
District of Columbia.
the national response to COVID-19: To prevent the further spread of COVID-19, which has already
killed more than 36,000 Americans, it is necessary for people to comply with
stay-at-home orders in their jurisdictions and continue social distancing. In
order to do so, they must be able to feed themselves, whether or not they are
still employed, searching for employment, or able to work from home.
Additionally, many essential workers—grocery store clerks, delivery drivers,
warehouse workers, among others—who are keeping the country running during the
public health emergency rely on food stamps. These workers should not have to
worry about how to feed their own families too.
major administrative burdens on States that are desperately fighting COVID-19: The Rule would impose substantial additional administrative
burdens on the states at a time when they are acting as front-line public
health and economic responders and focusing every possible resource on keeping
residents safe. BBCE was intended to reduce administrative costs and burdens by
allowing states to qualify families for multiple benefits programs at once,
rather than having to assess the same families multiple times and using
separate qualification processes for each program. By eliminating BBCE, the
Trump Administration would force states to duplicate efforts as they evaluate
residents for programs that they desperately need.
In addition to Nevada, other states participating in this letter
include: California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois,
Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New
York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia,
Washington, and Wisconsin, and the Corporation Counsel for the City of New
A copy of the letter is attached.