Advance Notice: Briefs

Nessel opposes Trump’s SNAP restrictions, calls rule ‘entirely unacceptable’

By: - September 30, 2019 3:41 pm

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a comment letter against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) arguing that President Trump’s restrictions on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would violate federal law and be detrimental to public health.

Attorney General Dana Nessel at the Mackinac Policy Conference, May 29, 2019 | Andrew Roth

The proposed rule, called Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, would end the state’s ability to set eligibility regulations for SNAP recipients based on the needs of the communities. 

The changes could affect more than 144,000 individuals in almost 80,000 Michigan households.

“This proposed rule is entirely unacceptable and exhibits a blatant disregard for more than 10% of SNAP recipients in Michigan,” said Nessel in a press release Monday. “I am horrified that the federal government feels comfortable not only in depriving adults of the essential assistance needed to put food on their tables, but also denying 58,743 Michigan children from eating lunch at school and consequently impacting their ability to learn. ”  

SNAP is one qualifier for students’ eligibility for the National School Lunch Program, which provides free and reduced price school meals for students who come from low-income families. For the 2018-19 school year, over 760,000 of Michigan’s students were eligible for free or reduced price meals.

Trump administration food stamp rule could kick millions off program

SNAP, commonly referred to as “food stamps,” is the country’s most important anti-hunger program. The program provides access to nutritious food for residents with limited incomes and is a national and statewide effort to help close poverty gaps.

As it stands, each state designs its own process for benefit eligibility and tracks income and asset requirements on a monthly basis.

Currently 39 states, including Michigan, use the broad based categorical eligibility (BBCE) policy to evaluate factors such as costs of living or childcare costs when determining eligibility. The policy also allows states to set asset limits so that families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities can attempt to save money without losing food aid. 

According to the release, the comment letter argues the changes to this policy violate the federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which governs how federal agencies implement rule changes. The letter also argues that the proposed rule fails to provide a legitimate justification for changing USDA policy, conflicts with the clear intent of Congress and exceeds USDA’s authority. 

Whitmer, 16 govs. oppose Trump admin. food stamp cuts

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and U.S. Rep Haley Stevens (D-Rochester) have all sent written opposition of the policy changes to the USDA.

Nessel joined 23 other Attorneys General from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin in filing the letter. 

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.