Farm Bill Deal Is A Critical Step to Protect SNAP, But Administrative Threat Looms

By Renato Rocha

This week, in a critical step to protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), our nation’s most effective anti-hunger program, members of Congress came together in a bipartisan way to help ensure that SNAP continues to help more than 40 million people purchase food each year. After months of stalemate over their differing approaches to the 2018 farm bill, the U.S. House and Senate have reached a conference agreement that not only protects the central role of SNAP to reduce hunger and poverty, but also rejects the House-passed bill to take away food assistance from people through cuts and stricter work requirements.

CLASP strongly urges Congress to protect SNAP by passing the conference committee’s farm bill. The 2018 farm bill deal, which is more in line with the bipartisan Senate version passed in June, ensures that SNAP continues to feed workers, parents, children, seniors, and people with disabilities. The deal also includes provisions that would build on best practices in workforce development to better connect SNAP participants to meaningful jobs, strengthen program integrity, and improve the technology used to administer the program.

Unlike the Senate version and the conference committee agreement, the House’s farm bill nutrition title aimed to take food assistance away from people trying to make ends meet. An estimated 2 million people would have had their benefits eliminated or reduced under the House bill. CLASP applauds the work of the conferees for a farm bill deal that protects SNAP and rejects the House’s harsh and counterproductive provisions.

Despite the bipartisan consensus to protect SNAP in Congress, the Trump Administration may continue its efforts to restrict access to SNAP through administrative channels – including regulatory attempts to implement some of the provisions Congress has just rejected. 

The House farm bill would have made it harder for states to waive SNAP’s time limits in areas of high unemployment. Currently, non-disabled adults ages 18-49 without dependent children are limited to just 3 months of food assistance in a 36-month period unless they engage in work or job training activities at least half time. States are not required to offer these individuals work activities, meaning people who want to work but can’t or aren’t able to find employment still lose food assistance.

More than half of the states have waived this requirement in at least some areas of high unemployment. The conference report is clear that Congress agrees these waivers are “necessary in times of recession and in areas with labor surpluses or higher rates of unemployment.” The Administration should abandon any plans for administrative changes that would limit these waivers, which would increase hardship for unemployed individuals who count on SNAP to help put food on the table and make it harder for SNAP to respond to the next recession.

During the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking process earlier this year, CLASP submitted comments in opposition to the administration’s initial efforts to change the rule. If a proposed rule change is published, CLASP will continue to fight against the administration’s attempt to take food away from people in low-income households.