Mayors from 70 cities as part of the U.S. Conference of Mayors wrote USDA this week to "express our strong opposition" to the department's revision of "broad based categorical eligibility" for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The mayors cited USDA numbers that the rule could "escalate food insecurity and hunger" for roughly 3.1 million people.
Under USDA's proposed rule released in July, the department will tighten rules that have allowed as many as 43 states to expand who can qualify for SNAP. Under USDA's standard rules, people qualify for SNAP at 130% of poverty level, or about $33,475 for a family of four.
Some states have raised SNAP eligibility to as high as 200% of poverty level, which would be $51,500 for a family of four.
USDA also has an asset test that limits cash or money for a family on SNAP to $2,250 unless someone in the home is age 60 or over, or is disabled, then the asset level can go to $3,500. Some assets are excluded, including the home, disability income and welfare.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue called the way states have used their flexibility on SNAP as a "loophole."
The mayors pointed out in their letter that the categorical eligibility issue was debated in the 2018 farm bill, and the mayors' conference opposed any changes. The mayors continue to take that position. The letter noted the change in the rule would also limit access for school children to reduced or free school meals as sell.
"Executive action should not be used to hurt individuals, families and communities; and we urge you to abandon this proposal. Our nation cannot remain globally competitive if our children do not have enough to eat; if our citizens do not have access to affordable health care' if housing and other basic needs are priced out of their reach; and if adults who are willing and able to work cannot find jobs that will help them support their families."
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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