In response to the Trump administration announcing plans to tighten eligibility for millions of Americans who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Sen. Bernie Sanders is leading a coalition of 19 senators and 120 U.S. representatives demanding that the Department of Agriculture withdraw its “disastrous rule” which intends to kick over 3 million people off of food assistance.
In a letter sent to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Thursday, Sen. Sanders and his colleagues noted that the Trump administration’s proposed rule would end the streamlined eligibility option for SNAP for people who have already demonstrated that they qualify for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. They wrote, “If enacted, the Trump Administration’s own analysis of this rule estimates that 3.1 million people – nearly 9 percent of SNAP recipients – would lose their benefits. No one should go hungry in the United States of America.
“This plan would disproportionally punish working families who are already struggling to put food on the table and make ends meet. Today, more than 13 million American children live in poverty, more than one in five people experiencing homelessness are children, and the United States has the highest youth poverty rate and infant mortality rate among comparable nations. Currently, 84 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with children, seniors, or a person with a disability, and 50 percent of children will receive SNAP at some point in their childhoods.”
Due to public schools’ reliance on SNAP enrollment when determining eligibility for free school meals, the members of Congress noted that approximately 500,000 children would automatically lose eligibility for free school lunches. They also observed that recipients already must endure a “robust vetting process” to verify income eligibility.
“USDA’s assertion that families can simply receive an informational brochure in order to qualify for SNAP is simply not true,” the legislators continued. “Perpetuating this lie breeds distrust in a successful program that lifted 8.4 million people out of poverty in 2015. USDA also erroneously asserts that higher income individuals take advantage of SNAP benefits. In reality, fraud is virtually nonexistent in this program; just 0.2 percent of benefits mistakenly go to households with net incomes above the poverty line.”
They concluded, “In a nation where the three wealthiest people own more wealth than the bottom half, increasing the barriers for hungry families is unconscionable. Last year, the United Nations report by the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights noted that ‘in a rich country like the United States, the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power.’ With this proposal you are once again doubling down on that choice.
“Millions of families will go hungry if your administration moves forward with this policy. We urge you to immediately rescind this shortsighted proposal.”
The letter was signed by 19 senators, including Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Kirsten Gillibrand. The letter was also signed by 120 U.S. representatives led by Rep. Terri Sewel and Sen. Sanders.
On Thursday, Sanders took to Twitter and wrote, “The Trump plan to cut nutrition assistance to 3 million Americans is nothing short of obscene. Tax cuts for the rich, more hunger for the poor. This is what oligarchy looks like.”