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Ranking Member Stabenow Statement on USDA Nutrition Assistance Rule

Stabenow: USDA rule does not follow Congressional intent, will face significant opposition and legal challenges

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, today released the following statement on the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s (USDA) proposed rule, which would increase obstacles for families participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP):

“Congress writes laws and the Administration is required to write rules based on the law, not the other way around. Congress chose not to change the current SNAP work rules in the Farm Bill, and instead, focused on strengthening work programs that actually help people get jobs.

“This regulation blatantly ignores the bipartisan Farm Bill that the President is signing today and disregards over 20 years of history giving states flexibility to request waivers based on local job conditions. I expect the rule will face significant opposition and legal challenges.

“Administrative changes should not be driven by ideology. I do not support unilateral and unjustified changes that would take food away from families.”

Background on SNAP Waivers

SNAP already has strong work requirements in place, which are working. The current regulations, put into place by President George W. Bush, give states the authority to request a waiver from restrictions on the amount of time able bodied adults can receive SNAP unless they consistently work a minimum number of hours. These waivers are critical during recessions and in areas with labor surpluses. Making the proposed changes to state flexibility because of a low national unemployment rate would make it harder for states to address their individual needs down the line.

Last week, Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which resoundingly rejected any changes to SNAP work requirements or states’ ability to request time limit waivers for able-bodied adults in areas with insufficient jobs or high unemployment. The 2018 Farm Bill Conference Report, which the President is slated to sign into law today, explicitly states that waivers are necessary in areas with higher unemployment and Congress intends to continue to give State SNAP Agencies the responsibility for determining when and how waivers are submitted. Earlier this year, during the consideration of the Senate Farm Bill, 68 Senators from both parties opposed an amendment that would have increased barriers for families on nutrition assistance and taken away states’ rights to issue waivers.