By Ann G. Daniels
Deadline: comments due December 2 –
If it feels like you’ve read something here before about the Grinch-in-Chief trying to cut back on food aid to this nation’s needy … it’s because you have. We’ve been writing about this time and time and time and time again, because they keep trying. So far, Congress keeps rejecting these efforts, but it’s obviously a priority of this administration. Now they’re at it again – and now it’s winter, and the new proposal will primarily affect people who live in places where it’s cold, so they can be both cold and hungry. You have until December 2 to submit your comments to try to keep this Dickensian plot twist from becoming reality.
What you can do:
Submit comments before December 2 by going to the comment site at https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=FNS-2019-0009-0001. If that doesn’t work, go to https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FNS-2019-0009 and click the blue button that says “COMMENT NOW.” You can look at other people’s comments here for ideas for what to say, and you can also get ideas from the bullet points below, but please use your own words – duplicate comments may be discarded.
It’s a little convoluted, but here’s the bottom line: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) regulations provide food aid based on income, and income is determined based on, among other things, expenses – including how much people spend on heating and cooling. For decades, rather than make people actually show how much they spend, states have provided month by month estimates that the Agriculture Department has taken into account. Under the new proposal, the Agriculture Department would instead “standardize the methodology for calculating standard utility allowances … The new methodology would set … the heating and cooling standard utility allowance (HCSUA), at the 80th percentile of low-income households’ utility costs in the State.” In other words, the new plan will get rid of states’ ability to determine, and have flexibility in determining, what it costs to keep from suffering from cold or heat, because the administration thinks that under the current plan too many people are getting help.
How this breaks down – some ideas you can use in your comments:
- The proposed plan would cut benefits for 19% of households on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps, while increasing benefits for 16%.
- The average loss in benefits would be $31 a month. The average gain would be $13 a month. Households could lose as much as $75 per month, or gain up to $33.
- Almost 8,000 households would lose benefits entirely.
- Cold northern states would be most affected by the proposed change to how heating costs are calculated. In other words, people who will be cold during the winter will now also go hungry.
- The food stamp program kept over 3 million people out of poverty in 2018.
- The proposal would save $4.5 billion from the SNAP program over five years, or less than $1 billion per year on average. The SNAP program cost $68 billion in 2018 alone – in other words, the proposed change would cause a lot of suffering to save a fraction of the cost.
Photograph “Hungry, Broke, Cold and Old” by Travis Wise
Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.