Proposed rule would bypass the intent of Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill and take food assistance away from families
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) led a bipartisan letter that raised concerns about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposed rule to make harmful changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and urged Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to withdraw the proposal.
“The proposed changes would take food assistance away from Americans struggling to find stable employment while doing nothing to help them to actually become permanently employed,” the Senators wrote. “This is contrary to Congressional intent, evidenced by the passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which rejected similar harmful changes to SNAP and passed Congress by a historic vote of 87-13 in the Senate and by 369-47 in the House of Representatives.”
Despite initial proposals by the President and some Members of Congress to do so, Congress chose to include no changes to SNAP work rules or states’ ability to waive the work requirements in the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 – known as the 2018 Farm Bill. In fact, an amendment to further restrict states’ ability to provide geographic waivers for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) participation in SNAP was rejected by the House of Representatives by a vote of 83-330. A similar amendment proposed in the Senate was rejected (tabled) by a bipartisan vote of 68-30.
Despite the bipartisan consensus to reject changes to ABAWD work rules and state waiver authority, the Department has proposed a regulation that that is in direct contravention of Congressional intent. This proposed regulation would make it harder for states to provide nutrition assistance in communities experiencing economic uncertainty. Recent analysis has also found the rule could result in the loss of more than 178,000 jobs.
“Congress recognizes that one-size-fits-all rules for SNAP and employment practices actually end up fitting no one,” the Senators also wrote. “While this Administration has promoted local control in many other sectors of federal policy, this proposed rule removes critical local input and flexibility. This proposal ignores the intent of Congress, would worsen hunger in this country, and would do nothing to help increase stable, long-term employment or move individuals to self-sufficiency. We urge you to immediately withdraw this proposed rule.”
In addition to Senators Stabenow and Murkowski, the letter was signed by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Robert Casey (D-Penn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jackie Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), John Tester (D-Mont.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).