Action Alert to Protect SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)

 “When we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ we place ourselves in tension with economic assumptions of our society. Rather than being self-sufficient, we need and depend on what God gives or provides through people, practices, and systems. ’Daily bread’ is not earned by efforts of individuals alone, but is made possible through a variety of relationships and institutions [note to Martin Luther’s ‘The Large Catechism’]. God gives in ways that expand our notions of who ‘us’ includes, from people close at hand to those around the globe. In stark contrast to those who seek unchecked accumulation and profit, our attention is drawn to those who are desperate for what will sustain their lives for just this day.” – From ELCA social statement Sufficient, Sustainable Living for All

Hungry People Face Another Threat!

Please Help!

This proposed rule change will affect many low-income families in Minnesota. Please make comments for USDA and when you finish, invite your church leaders to do the same. The Administration needs to know where the faith community stands on this.

SITUATION: The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rule that would eliminate an estimated 3.1 million children, families, disabled and older adults from access to SNAP benefits. The comment period ends on September 23. Time is short, and your voice is essential now!

The rule would eliminate broad based categorical eligibility ( BBCE or “Cat El”), which is a policy that allows states to consider slightly lower income or asset tests to participate in SNAP if they have large expenses elsewhere – like high housing costs or significant child care expenses. This policy is particularly important for low-income working families that struggle to make ends meet, and helps to promote a little asset-building which has proven important to eventually getting out of poverty. It also helps states improve their administration of SNAP, while lowering administrative costs.*

This exact change was considered in the Farm Bill debate last year, but it was defeated by a broad bipartisan majority of Congress. Proposing this as an executive action in the form of a “rule change” goes against the will of Congress! Proponents of the change claim Cat El  is a “loophole” which allows ineligible people to benefit from SNAP. However, they fail to recognize that only a few states don’t use Cat El, and that states that do use it have other costs that greatly impact low-income individuals and families.

*The MN SNAP application used to be about 20 pages long and was almost more difficult to fill out than income tax forms. People had to include all kinds of information, not just about their income, but about year, make & model of their car so it could be checked against blue-book value of their car, the amount of savings in bank accounts (even if it was gifts from family for future education), their housing costs, and many other things. Some items could be deductions that made them more likely to be eligible (high housing costs), while others (like a car valued above a few thousand dollars) would make them less eligible. For instance, If a family lost a job in a recession but had a decent car from when they were still working, they’d have to get rid of the decent car (usually at a loss) to get a barely running car to be eligible for food assistance. This in turn hindered their opportunities to look for work and get a new job!]

 

ACTION NEEDED: Write a personalized “comment” in opposition to this proposed rule based on the needs you see in your community, your role as a volunteer in your community or congregation, and/or your role in your faith community (Are you ordained to ministry,  a lay volunteer, or a member of a congregation that works on hunger, poverty or housing issues? Share about that!).

Send your comment to Lutheran Advocacy-MN at 105 University Ave. W., St. Paul, MN 55103 before Sept. 15, or to ELCA Advocacy (in Washington, D.C.) before Sept. 20, and we will make sure that all comments get hand delivered to the USDA by the deadline!!

Send a copy of your comment to your members of Congress, and ask them to oppose the rule!!
Your representative is one of these:  MN01-Rep. Jim Hagedorn; MN02-Rep. Angie Craig; MN03-Rep. Dean Phillips; MN04-Rep. Betty McCollum; MN05-Rep. Ilhan Omar; MN06-Rep. Tom Emmer; MN07-Rep. Collin Peterson; MN08-Rep. Pete Stauber. Our senators are: Sen. Amy Klobuchar & Sen. Tina Smith.  Click here for the congressional districts.  Addresses: Rep. ______________, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515; Sen. _______________, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510

MORE BACKGROUND: More than 40 states participate in this two-decades old policy. It was a change made after “welfare reform” turned what had been Aid to Families with Dependent Children into a work program with severe time limits. The car value for SNAP hadn’t changed for years & years, the housing deductions were out of date & made little difference, and other things hadn’t been changed. So, states were allowed to offer SNAP to people or families that are already eligible for other programs. In Minnesota, we have many families that are eligible for housing assistance or child care assistance, but can’t benefit from those programs because there isn’t enough money to serve all who are eligible.

The proposed rule is harmful because it:

  • Increases hunger for families by eliminating access to SNAP for 3.1 million vulnerable members of our community
  • Ignores the will of Congress when it addressed this issue in the 2018 Farm Bill
  • No longer allows states to consider other issues faced by low-income people or families, like high housing costs or high daycare costs
  • Harms grocery retailers and agricultural producers by reducing the amount of SNAP dollars available to spur local economic activity
  • Threatens the health outcomes and learning potential of children
  • Harms people close to retirement as it may cause them to spend down their retirement savings which makes them more vulnerable when they need the funds

From our partner on housing issues, Minnesota Housing Partnership:

Links to maps showing housing issues in Minnesota: https://www.mhponline.org/images/stories/docs/policy/state/2012/maps_all.pdf

ELCA social teaching urges Lutherans to engage in service and advocacy for our neighbor in need of daily bread. These faith practices express our relationship with Jesus Christ, rooted in baptism that sends us out for the sake of the world.