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Loss of SNAP Benefits during pandemic would cause 3.1 million to go hungry, says AG

April 22, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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A move by the Trump administration to end Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits has drawn the attention of Attorney General Letitia James and the New York City Corporation Counsel, which both said the move would force 3.1 million people to go hungry in the middle of a national pandemic.

“Families and states are already seeking to make ends meet because of the global pandemic, and this rule would push them into an even more precarious position,” James said. “It is unconscionable to move forward with trying to implement this policy, and we demand that the Trump administration immediately suspend the rulemaking process. We must all be working together to get through this.”

NYC Corporation Counsel James Johnson joined with James and 21 other attorneys general to demand that the Department of Agriculture not finalize a proposed rule that would make it harder to qualify for food benefits.

“Hundreds of thousands of people are ill, tens of thousands have died, and more than 20 million have lost jobs,” Johnson said. “This rule will force our most vulnerable residents to make the harshest of choices: choose food or choose other critical human needs, including housing and medicine.

Johnson added that not only would the rule deny people a basic necessity, he said that it would also increase budens for taxpayers and slow economic recovery.

“It will also burden New York City with substantial administrative costs when the city is devoting all available resources to containing COVID-19 and keeping residents safe,” he said. “This would make long-term stable employment and our economic recovery harder to achieve in a normal economic downturn. It is particularly disastrous at a time of extreme crisis.”

The proposed rule would eliminate a policy known as “broad-based categorical eligibility” that allows states to make families who are already eligible for certain other benefits to automatically receive SNAP benefits. This allows low-income families who slightly exceed income and asset limits to maintain eligibility if they have significant critical expenses such as childcare, housing, or education.

In the letter to the USDA, the group points out that the proposed rule would lead to 3.1 million being removed from SNAP and it would impose major burdens on the states that would be forced to step in to replace the federal contribution.

The coalition has also argued that the rule change would run counter to the Office of Management and Budget by directing all federal agencies to “prioritize all resources to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

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