Presbyterians urged to protest proposed rule limiting food stamp benefits

Administration tries to sidestep Congress on food policy

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Presbyterians are being asked to speak against a proposed administrative rule that would eliminate food assistance benefits to nearly 3 million Americans.

LOUISVILLE — The Office of Public Witness is calling on Presbyterians to speak against a proposed administrative rule revision that will eliminate food assistance benefits to nearly 3 million Americans.

According to Monday’s Action Alert, last month the Trump Administration proposed a rule that would eliminate the broad-based categorical eligibility option for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. That option, in place for more than 20 years, allows households with slightly higher incomes to be eligible for SNAP because they qualify for other assistance programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Late last year while passing the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress rejected eliminating broad-based categorical eligibility. The United States Department of Agriculture says the proposed action “closes a loophole that allows states to make participants in certain programs ‘categorically eligible’ to participate in SNAP.” Some households, the USDA says, can qualify when they would not under regular program rules.

USDA said the rule would help to ensure “that eligibility for SNAP is consistent from state to state, and better aligns SNAP with other federal benefit programs for households in need.”

However, the Action Alert notes, SNAP “is one of the most effective safety net programs in our nation. The proposed rule would have a devastating impact on individuals and families, children, seniors, and people with disabilities who rely on SNAP for food assistance. In one of the wealthiest nations in the world, any governmental action that hinders a person’s ability to access nutritious food is unacceptable.”

Every human being has a fundamental right to sustenance, OPW said.

“As a Matthew 25 Church, we are called to ‘actively engage the world around us’ by eradicating systemic poverty,” the Action Alert states. “This means speaking out against policies that will increase food insecurity and push people deeper into poverty.”

The proposed rule is currently open for public comment until Sept. 23. Comments can be made here. To view a sample comment, click here.

The federal government has tips for submitting effective comments. Among them: “The comment process is not a vote — one well supported comment is often more influential than a thousand form letters.” And there’s this suggestion: “If you disagree with a proposed action, suggest an alternative (including not regulating at all) and include an explanation and/or analysis of how the alternative might meet the same objective or be more effective.”

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