Protest proposed rule limiting food aid

Action Deadline: April 2 – The war against people who need help getting food on the table never ends. We fought for a 2018 Farm Bill that didn’t cut aid or impose harsh time limits for millions of SNAP/CalFresh (food stamp) recipients, and we won in a bipartisan victory! But now Trump’s Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants to sneak in the back door with an executive order that would impose work requirements on people receiving food aid, limiting benefits to just three months for unemployed and underemployed individuals without dependent children. This could potentially disqualify 755,000 beneficiaries. States have always had flexibility to waive time limits on SNAP in areas that don’t have enough jobs. This proposed order would ignore the realities facing low-income Americans. We said NO to cutting food aid from the Farm Bill – let’s say NO to this too. The USDA’s mandatory comment period runs through April 2, and you can leave comments here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/02/01/2018-28059/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-requirements-for-able-bodied-adults-without-dependents#open-comment

Read on for suggestions for what to say, and for more info.

What you can do:

Leave a comment on the Federal Register website by April 2, 2019. The USDA is required to take and respond to public comments.

The Federal register page for the proposal, with information and a link to a page where you can leave a comment, is https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/02/01/2018-28059/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-requirements-for-able-bodied-adults-without-dependents – to comment, click the green button on the right side that says “SUBMIT A FORMAL COMMENT.” You can also read other people’s comments by clicking the link under the green button.

The comment page itself is https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/02/01/2018-28059/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-requirements-for-able-bodied-adults-without-dependents#open-comment

What to say:

The comments below are suggestions. It’s very important to write in your own words whenever possible and especially to add your own thoughts; identical comments are bundled together and not given individual weight.

  • I oppose stricter time limits to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • There are already strict rules for people who don’t have children or dependents (“able bodied adults without dependents”) who get food assistance through SNAP.
  • We should not make the existing rules even worse by taking away state flexibility to waive time limits if there aren’t enough jobs for low-income people.
  • Exposing more people to time-limited benefits, taking away states’ ability to waive time limits, and expanding the people the strict time limits apply to will only increase the number of people facing hunger in this country.
  • Personal comments:
    • Why is protecting access to food assistance for people struggling to find enough work important to you personally?
    • Why is it important to your community? What’s the situation like where you live?

More info:

The Farm Bill that passed with bipartisan support in December 2018 (the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018) authorized and funded SNAP and included time limitations for unemployed able-bodied adults without children, with permission for states to waive the limits if they found that there were not enough jobs that the people in question could find. Under the new proposal, the USDA proposes to do away with this flexibility, regardless of whether there are sufficient jobs for low-income people struggling to find work. Essentially, if a childless adult between 18 and 49 years old can’t get and keep a job for at least 20 hours a week, they can only get three months of food aid over three years.

Childless people in depressed areas are just as hungry as anyone else who can’t find work and can’t afford food. The current proposal blames the poor and the hungry for their own poverty and hunger. It’s a story proven time and again to be false as well as cruel. It doesn’t help anyone find a job, it doesn’t lift anyone out of poverty, and it doesn’t keep anyone from going hungry.

As one former food stamp recipient said in a moving essay:

In his speech, Trump adjudged the state of America “an economic miracle.” But what is the miraculous quality of snatching food from more than three-quarters of a million Americans? Does one in eight food-insecure Americans point to positive economic awe? Can we safely celebrate economic prosperity when 43 million human beings live disposed to the violence of poverty?

Tell the USDA: NO.

For more background read our prior articles about SNAP:

Protect the Farm Bill in Conference

We’ve been writing for some time about the Farm Bill, an immense piece of legislation that – among many, many other things – covers SNAP/CalFresh (aka food stamps). Once again, we need you to contact your members of Congress to protect this crucial benefit that helps one in eight Americans put food on the table.

This past June, H.R. 2, the version of the Farm Bill rammed through by Republicans in the House of Representatives, drastically cut access to SNAP; the Senate passed a version that protected the program; and the bill is now in conference to resolve differences between the two versions. These differences concerning SNAP have been a huge blocker to passing the legislation, which comes up for renewal every five years, but now Democrats have a stronger hand due to winning back the House. It will be hard to pass legislation between the election and next January, when the new Congress takes over (known as a lame duck session), and especially when control is passing from one party to another – but Congress seems determined to pass the Farm Bill, and they’re feeling heat to get it done.

Please call your members of Congress and tell them to protect SNAP and oppose any stringent requirements for these benefits. Find more info about SNAP here.

What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for your past support of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka SNAP). I’m calling to ask you to protect and strengthen SNAP and vote down any Republican efforts to weaken the program or cut its funding in the Farm Bill.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

9/27/18 IEB & ISF Sen Feinstein office visit

Seventeen Indivisibles from IEB and Indivisible San Francisco met with Sean Elsbernd, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s state director, on September 27 at her San Francisco office. Our almost two-hour meeting was jam-packed with questions and “asks.”

First on the agenda: a detailed back and forth on how the homeless count in San Francisco is conducted. It was further emphasized that more resources were needed to help the homeless, from outreach to affordable housing. Sean seemed particularly concerned about the estimate that 2,400 kids may be homeless.

For those of you not placing the date, September 27 was the day Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh testified in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Of course, the hearings came up, and we stressed – as we have consistently done – that we are firmly against Kavanaugh being confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. The group urged Senator Feinstein to continue what she’s doing and to look as well for other methods to stop his confirmation.

On a not-necessarily-unrelated note, the topic of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act came up. Sean thinks that Congress will just extend the Act, at least for the short term.

Sean told us that on the important issue of immigrant family separation, their office is not getting phone calls, and that it’s crucial for people to keep this issue alive by contacting the Senator. He did acknowledge that the Kavanaugh hearings have diverted attention – but we should look for any opportunity to revive the issue.

Sean said that the House is expected to head home for campaigning and won’t be back until after the midterms, so don’t expect any legislation to pass that needs both chambers to act on.

We also talked about protecting the Mueller Trump-Russia investigation, election security, digital privacy, environmental/public health, the war in Yemen, the Farm Bill, workers’ rights, the federal judiciary, tax policy, trade, criminal justice reform, and having a town hall. Sean’s comments on each of those topics were informative and indicated the Senator’s position. As an example, the Farm Bill is in conference and the final version will have to be acceptable to 60 Senators regardless of what the House passed. Another insight: White House Counsel Don McGahn’s imminent departure will force the Administration and Senate Republicans to start from scratch on judicial nominations and will give Senate Democrats a bit of breathing room.

As of November 7, Sean will be the chief of staff for San Francisco Mayor London Breed. As of now, Senator Feinstein has not selected his replacement but he’s hoping that will be resolved shortly. The general feeling from the Indivisible folks was that Sean will be missed.

Read our memo to the Senator.

 

We Need to Save Wildlife. Again.

By Christina Tarr and Andrea Lum

Action deadline: September 24, 2018

A death knell rang on July 19 for hundreds of endangered animals and plants in the United States, as the Trump administration announced its plan to roll back two key provisions of the Endangered Species Act. The proposal by the Interior and Commerce departments, which are charged with protecting endangered wildlife, would end the practice of extending similar protections to species regardless of whether they are listed as endangered or threatened. Yes, this means polar bears. In the most brazenly anti-environmental/pro-business stance possible, the administration also wants to eliminate language that tells officials to ignore economic impacts when determining how wildlife should be protected.

The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973, is an incredibly popular law, credited with bringing iconic species like the bald eagle, the grizzly bear, and the humpback whale back from the brink of extinction. It is also an important tool in the fight to protect our environment, useful for blocking or limiting coal mines, development, and oil and gas drilling. In a recent press release, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Brett Hartl stated: “These proposals would slam a wrecking ball into the most crucial protections for our most endangered wildlife. If these regulations had been in place in the 1970s, the bald eagle and the gray whale would be extinct today. If they’re finalized now, [Interior Secretary Ryan] Zinke will go down in history as the extinction secretary.”

What you can do:

Comment on the proposal: The comment period on this proposal opened on July 25. Please file your comments here by the deadline: September 24, 2018.

Some points you can include:

  • The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973, is an incredibly popular law, credited with bringing species like the bald eagle, grizzly bear, and humpback whale back from the brink of extinction. It is also an important tool in the fight to protect our environment, useful for blocking or limiting coal mines, development, and oil and gas drilling. Even with the ESA in full force, however, there are indications that as many as one-third of America’s species are vulnerable, with one in five imperiled and at high risk of extinction.
  • This crisis extends well beyond species officially listed as endangered, and now includes many garden variety creatures from monarch butterflies to songbirds. Experts note that some 12,000 species across the country are “in need of conservation action.” Habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, disease, and chemical pollution are the leading wildlife threats. Climate change amplifies these threats. Changing climate and precipitation patterns will create new and increased risks of drought and flooding as sea level rise creeps up the coastlines. The effects on individual species remain mostly unknown, but are likely to ripple throughout ecosystems.
  • Now, with our wild places in decline, is not the time to start weighing the economic costs of development against the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. Nor do we have time to let threatened species become endangered before we move to act on their behalf. Reject these provisions whose only intent is to hobble the Endangered Species Act. We need an ESA acting in full force working to preserve our endangered wilderness, and the species with whom we share the planet.

Next, call your Members of Congress: Let them know that endangered species matter to you, thank them for their work in protecting endangered species, and urge them to continue to do so whenever they can. For example, in the 2018 Farm Bill, both Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris stood against anti-environmental provisions. Our representatives all have good records: read about Representative Barbara Lee’s support for the environment and environmental justice here, and see her conservation scorecard here. See Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s conservation scorecard here, and Representative Eric Swalwell’s here. Call them using the same comments you adapted from the above scripts, or a slightly different one, like this:

My name is ____. My zip code is ____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank [Senator/Representative ______].

I’m calling because I’m very concerned about the proposed threats to the Endangered Species Act by the Trump Administration. The ESA, and all environmental legislation, is very important to me.

[Here’s an example, you can say something about your own experience with wildlife]: Seeing bald eagles nesting in Milpitas and peregrine falcons nesting on the Cal campus encourages me to believe that we can coexist with nature, but we have to work at it. When development and the resulting habitat loss is the chief danger to all wild life, I appreciate anything you can do to curb our destruction of wild species and wild places. We are lucky to be close to so much wilderness in the Bay Area, but we have to work to ensure that wild places persist, both here and everywhere around the country. Thank you.

[For Senators only:  Thank you for working to keep dangerous anti-environmental riders out of must-pass legislation like the Farm Bill and the Defense Authorization Act.]

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

 

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places. Andrea Lum is on the IEB newsletter and website team, and is the IEB Volunteer Team lead.
Photograph of bald eagle by Patrick Brinksma on Unsplash

Feed People – Save Food Stamps

House Republicans drastically cut SNAP/CalFresh (AKA food stamps) from the Farm Bill (H.R. 2) on June 21, and this week the action moves to the Senate, with an expected vote by Friday, June 29.

SNAP helps put food on the table for people struggling to find work, low-income families with children, veterans, and seniors. Find more info about SNAP here. This is a five-year authorization bill; we must lock in this critical part of the safety net that millions depend on. Please call our Senators and ask them to protect and strengthen SNAP, and to vote down any Republican efforts to weaken the program. Call every day (yes, that’s every day!) until Friday night (June 29), and check back for updates.

What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for your past support of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka SNAP). I am calling to ask you to protect and strengthen SNAP and vote down any Republican efforts to weaken the program or cut its funding in the Farm Bill.

 

Senator Feinstein (415-393-0707; DC: 202- 224-3841)
Senator Harris (415-355-9041; DC: 202-224-3553)

IEB Partners with Alameda County Community Food Bank

IEB, through its Outreach to Organizations Team, has partnered with the Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB). September was Hunger Action Month, and ACCFB hosted an event on September 27 to educate the community about the farm bill, a key piece of broad legislation that funds critical anti-hunger programs, primarily the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is called CalFresh in California.

IEB was well represented at the event, which included a celebration of SNAP’s 40th birthday, and featured presentations from Shanti Prasad, Senior Policy Advocate with ACCFB; Melissa Cannon, Nutrition Policy Advocate with California Food Policy Advocates; and Armando Nieto, executive director with Community Food and Justice Coalition.

ACCFB 9.17 event

IEB representatives included Nick Travaglini, Toni Henle, Linda Dougall, Ward Kanowsky, LeAnn Kanowsky, Harold Klobukowski, and Daryl Walke. Also pictured: presenter Shanti Prasad.

Key takeaways included the following:

  • The House Committee on Agriculture has jurisdiction over the farm bill. The committee is chaired by Michael Conaway (R-TX) with Collin Peterson (D-MN) as the ranking member. Majority members from California include Jeff Denham and Doug LaMalfa. The minority member from California is Jim Costa.
  • SNAP is on the chopping block. The FY 2018 House Budget Resolution includes drastic cuts to SNAP.
  • Even though the farm bill has not been introduced yet (it is currently subject to “listening sessions” throughout the country), we can still contact our members of Congress now and urge them to vote no on the 2018 House Budget Resolution and to protect safety net programs like SNAP.

Sen. Kamala Harris (email)
(415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email)
(415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065