Washington State Delegation Blasts Trump Administration Rule that Would Strip Food Assistance Benefits from More than 175,600 Washingtonians
New Trump administration rule would eliminate Washington state’s ability to offer Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to more than 60,000 children, 15,000 elderly individuals
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) joined U.S. Representatives Kim Schrier (D-WA, 8th), Adam Smith (D-WA, 9th), Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2nd), Denny Heck (D-WA, 10th), Derek Kilmer (D-WA, 6th), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA, 7th), and Suzan K. DelBene (D-WA, 1st) today to send a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue decrying a proposed Trump administration rule that would severely limit Washington state’s ability to provide vulnerable people and families with food assistance. Specifically, the rule would restrict Washington and other states’ ability to offer Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to families with low incomes, placing more than 175,000 Washingtonians in danger of losing food assistance.
“We have heard from leaders of locally-based organizations and faith-based communities across the state that this rule change will only put a greater burden on food banks that are already struggling to meet existing food assistance needs. This rule will undermine low-income families’ health, and jeopardize the food security and development of young and school-aged children. We urge you to consider the harmful impact of this proposed rule and to rescind it as soon as possible,” the delegation wrote.
SNAP is a critical program in Washington state and across the country that helps to reduce food insecurity, improve nutrition, and reduce poverty for low-income people and families. Should the Trump administration rule go into effect, more than 60,000 children and more than 15,000 elderly individuals in Washington state would stand to lose access to this vital assistance. Additionally, more than 15,000 children would lose access to free school lunches they are currently receiving through SNAP.
In addition to the harm it would inflict upon low-income families and individuals across the state, the proposed rule would also negatively impact the state government and economy. According to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Service (DSHS), implementing the changes mandated by the new rule would require the state to hire more than 150 new full-time employees, placing an increased administrative burden upon DSHS and financial burden upon state taxpayers. Finally, by removing 175,600 Washingtonians from the SNAP program, the rule would also inflict harm upon the state’s economy, directly reducing food spending by about $25 million.
Read full letter below or HERE.
September 5, 2019
The Honorable Sonny Perdue
Secretary of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, D.C. 20250
As members of the Washington state Congressional delegation, we write to express our strong opposition to the proposed rule published in the Federal Register on July 24, 2019 entitled, “Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)” (84 Fed. Reg. 35570). This rule changes how states can opt to increase the Federal Poverty Limit (FPL) for SNAP eligibility using Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE)—an option Washington state utilizes. If this proposed rule is implemented, the consequences for Washingtonians will be devastating and disproportionate. An estimated 175,600 Washingtonians, including children under five, seniors, and low-income families, will lose access to critical food security benefits. The proposed rule will also place significant added financial and administrative burden on state agencies. We request that you rescind this proposed rule immediately.
BBCE allows states to make families and individuals eligible for services funded by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) “categorically eligible” for SNAP benefits. These households must still undergo SNAP’s rigorous income and other eligibility verification requirements in order to determine if they qualify for a SNAP benefit. Claims that these families and individuals bypass SNAP’s screening process are unfounded. Washington state adopted BBCE to make families and individuals with incomes between 130 and 200 percent of the FPL categorically eligible for SNAP. As you know, SNAP is a critical tool to reduce food insecurity, improve nutrition, and reduce poverty for low-income people of all ages. Washingtonians who fall within this income threshold do not have enough resources to be self-sufficient. SNAP benefits, made available through BBCE, help them meet basic needs.
An August 2019 Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) analysis found that the proposed rule would render an estimated 35,211 low-income households in Washington state ineligible for ongoing Basic Food assistance each month, which would negatively impact our state’s economy. On an annual basis, this figure includes 19,263 children under 5 years old, 46,839 school-aged children, 15,838 elderly individuals, and people with disabilities. With an average monthly allotment per household of $60.02, this equates to a loss of over $25 million in spending from the local economy annually.
Beyond this significant impact, we are further concerned by the lack of consideration in USDA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) regarding the consequences to children under the proposed rule who receive services from the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs. Under these programs, children who reside in a household receiving SNAP benefits are made eligible for free school meals. Because this proposed rule would reduce household SNAP eligibility, these children will also lose free school meal eligibility. In Washington state, an estimated 15,663 students will no longer directly qualify for free school meals as a result of the proposed rule.
Lastly, in addition to these impacts, the proposed rule will significantly increase administrative costs to Washington state. According to DSHS the state would incur significant operational, system, and quality assurance costs. The state would be required to terminate cases, as well as verify and recertify cases that will lengthen application processing times and require recalibration of IT systems. For example, DSHS estimates that they will require 55 additional full-time employees (FTEs) to terminate existing cases that become ineligible as a result of this change, 71 FTEs annually to review and verify resources for existing recipients, and 39 FTEs annually to account for increased administrative burden and processing times.
We have heard from leaders of locally-based organizations and faith-based communities across our state that this rule change will only put a greater burden on food banks that are already struggling to meet existing food assistance needs. This rule will undermine low-income families’ health, and jeopardize the food security and development of young and school-aged children. We urge you to consider the harmful impact of this proposed rule and to rescind it as soon as possible.
 Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility for SNAP: Comprehensive Impact Statement, Washington State Department of Social & Health Services Economic Services Administration, August 15, 2019 at 1.
 L. Tiehen, D. Jolliffe, & C. Gundersen, “Alleviating Poverty in the United States: The Critical Role of SNAP Benefits.” U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service (Report Number 132), April 1, 2012.
 Reducing Poverty & Inequality in Washington State, Poverty Reduction Workgroup, May 10, 2019. <https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/documents/PRWG_workforce_development_conference_05.10.2019.pdf>
 Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility for SNAP: Comprehensive Impact Statement, Washington State Department of Social & Health Services Economic Services Administration, August 15, 2019 at 2.
 Id. at 3.
 Id. at 3.
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