The latest Trump Administration effort to shrink the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP] would eliminate benefits to about 3 million current users, undo automatic eligibility for free school meals for about 500,000 students, and increase the administrative burden on the states and the complexity of the application process for future applicants. On July 24th, USDA posted a proposed rule change that would revise the Categorical Eligibility or “Cat-El” provisions that allow the states to extend eligibility to any household receiving benefits under Transitional Assistance to Needy Families [TANF] or Supplemental, Security Income [SSI]. According to USDA, 40 States, the District of Columbia, The US Virgin Island and Guam had made use of the provision by 2018.

The Cat–El provision currently allows states to extend eligibility up to a gross income level of 200% of the poverty line instead of the 130% included in the SNAP legislation, and to substitute their TANF or SSI assets ceilings for the more restrictive ones in SNAP. To receive a SNAP benefit, families must still have insufficient resources for food after deductions are made for shelter costs, work expenses and various other categories specified in legislation. The net effect of “Cat-El” is to extend SNAP benefits to households with high medical, housing and or childcare costs who might otherwise be eliminated by the gross income test, and to households, especially those of elderly and disabled persons, who might fail the assets screen. Clearly the revision would increase hunger and food insecurity in the United States.

The public comment period is open until September 23rd. USDA is required to count each unique comment and to prepare a report showing how it has taken comments into account in revising the proposed rule.

For more information, see the statement by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

For a streamlined method of submitting comments, see the form provided by the Food Research and Action Center.

To submit comments directly, see instructions in the Federal Register.