A new Trump administration rule that will kick over 700,000 people off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – America’s premier anti-hunger program — is set to take effect in April. This rule will literally take food off the tables of American families who are already struggling to get by.
This administration claims that this is all about getting people back to work. But as members of Congress who collectively represent more than a decade of chairmanship on the House Agriculture Committee’s subcommittee that oversees federal anti-hunger programs, we see clearly through this lie. And we believe this is nothing but another cynical and partisan attempt to gut benefits for those who have fallen on hard times.
This president may not know what life is like for people struggling to get by, but we do. We represent tight-knit communities in Northeast Ohio and Central and Western Massachusetts. Our districts include Democrats, Republicans, and everyone in between. Regardless of their party affiliation, our constituents believe in a hard-day’s work – and in helping those who fall on hard times.
They’ve seen how hard it can be sometimes to put food on the table, often through no fault of their own. And they’ve experienced how easy it can be to fall off track when unexpected bills or an illness throw budgets off balance. That is why programs like SNAP exist. Its benefits are modest, averaging about $1.40 per person, per meal. But it is a program that has kept millions of people out of food insecurity, and it continues to be one of the most efficient and effective parts of our federal safety net.
The administration’s attempt to reduce SNAP would be devastating, but the House of Representatives is taking action to fight back. This week, we’re proud to stand alongside our colleagues in filing an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief which introduces information from outside experts to aid the court in its decision making process.
Our filing raises four distinct objections:
First, the rule would strip at least 700,000 hungry, low-income Americans of their SNAP benefits when it takes effect on April 1. While many experts view this number as merely a floor for the possible total number of recipients kicked off the program as a result of the policy change, the administration is nevertheless trumpeting this systematic eviction as a great accomplishment.
Second, for a White House that has criticized past administrations for their perceived regulatory overreach, this iteration of USDA is merely using the same tactics to fit its own political deliverables. It is also attempting to accomplish the far-right policy goals that a bipartisan Congress categorically rejected in the 2018 farm bill. The administration and its ultra-conservative henchmen in Congress cannot stomach that 369 representatives rejected their partisan assault on the poor.
Third, the Republicans, who have long labeled themselves the party of federalism and states’ rights, are completely exposed as hypocrites by championing a rule that eliminates the rights of states – red and blue alike – to determine what their own citizens need and serve them accordingly.
Finally, the administration’s rule actively harms the very people USDA has committed to protect. The rule intentionally reduces the ability of SNAP to accomplish its mission. The administration uses the callous term “self-selection,” suggesting that individuals who can’t meet the new requirements for work or training have decided to do so on their own accord. This is a gutless abdication of responsibility, and a two-faced abandonment of its stated motto to “do right and feed everyone.”
SNAP works. It prevents food insecurity, stabilizes families, boosts public health, lifts people out of poverty, helps our veterans when their transition back to civilian life hits a rough patch, and provides pathways of opportunity for those struggling to get ahead. But instead of looking for ways to end hunger, this administration is doing an end-run around Congress to make hunger worse. We think that is just plain wrong.
The stock market may be up, but most Americans haven’t seen a raise in years and are struggling just to break even. Jobs in rural areas are as hard to come by as they are in forgotten blue-collar sections of the Rust Belt. And far too many people are working two, three, and four jobs just to make ends meet.
As the president and congressional Republicans continue to shower tax breaks and giveaways on the rich and powerful, we will not stop defending vulnerable Americans and speaking out for the needs of all people in our communities.
Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge represents the 11th District of Ohio and serves as chair of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations. Congressman Jim McGovern represents the 2nd District of Massachusetts and serves as chair of the House Rules Committee. He formerly served as ranking member of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition.