Take Action to Preserve Adult Access to SNAP Assistance
In February, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a proposed rule that would punish unemployed adults and their access to the food safety net by restricting state waivers of the time limit on SNAP participation by able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs). Without a state waiver, these adults are limited to only three months of SNAP benefits in a 36-month period unless they satisfy a burdensome work requirement. The majority of states currently have a waiver for either the entire state or certain localities without sufficient employment opportunities, and nearly all states had waivers at the height of the Great Recession. State waivers of the ABAWD time limits are an essential tool to help states address food insecurity and ensure that families, including prospective parents, receive adequate nutrition.
NWA has prepared template comments to assist you in speaking out against proposed changes to SNAP access. Remember: Regulatory commenting is not a lobbying activity. Comments can be submitted directly through the Federal Register until April 2, 2019.
Senate Unveils Draft Budget Resolution
On Friday, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) released the first budget resolution in this year’s debate about how to raise the budget caps. Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, Congress must proactively raise the caps on federal spending for both defense and non-defense discretionary programs by September 30, 2019; otherwise, budget levels will revert to lower, pre-ordained “sequestration” levels.
Sen. Enzi’s proposed budget chooses not to raise the budget caps, which would allow the sequester cuts to take effect. This would have a significant impact on federal spending – cutting defense spending by $71 billion and non-defense programs by $55 billion – and marks a departure from the president’s budget, which proposed similar cuts to non-defense programs while increasing defense funding by $103 billion. Should the sequester cuts go into effect, Congress would have to decide how to apportion the cuts, making difficult choices to slash budgets for programs that aid the health and wellbeing of American families.
Even though Sen. Enzi is calling for the sequester cuts to go into effect, his proposal also shows openness to the president’s suggested $103 billion increase in defense spending. Still, the Senate budget resolution is unlikely to move forward, as major figures in Congress continue to negotiate a deal to lift the budget caps. Democratic negotiators – primarily House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) – have urged parity in any budget increases between defense and non-defense programs. NWA will continue to update members as the budget negotiations continue in the coming months.
Disaster Relief Package to Move This Week
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has taken a procedural step to move forward with Senate consideration of a disaster-relief package as early as Tuesday of this week. The House previously passed a bill in January offering $14.2 billion in assistance, including $600 million for nutrition assistance in Puerto Rico and $68 million to sustain Medicaid assistance in the Northern Marianas Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.
It is unclear which proposal will be considered by the Senate this week. Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) already unveiled a proposal of $13.6 billion in disaster aid, although Democrats noted that it failed to include several provisions, notably the Medicaid funding for the Pacific territories. Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) is working on a separate measure, and it is unclear whether senators will add relief for Nebraska and other states affected by recent flooding.
As the Senate continues to debate disaster relief, Puerto Rico has already reduced nutrition benefits for over 670,000 individuals.
House Appropriators to Scrutinize USDA Research Reorganization
On Wednesday, House Subcommittee on Agriculture Appropriations will hold a hearing on USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue’s efforts to relocate two research agencies – the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) – outside the National Capital Region. House appropriators will hear testimony from former USDA officials who served under five different presidents.
NWA has led nutrition and anti-hunger groups in working with agriculture research and statistics organizations to oppose the move. ERS conducts vital nutrition research and program evaluation for programs like WIC and SNAP. NWA joins dozens of groups in expressing concern that the relocation of ERS and NIFA will result in a reduction of research areas, loss of staff expertise, and devaluation of ERS research.
In February 2019, appropriators in both the House and Senate called for a delay in the relocation and urged USDA to conduct a cost-analysis before moving forward. Currently, USDA is entertaining proposals for 67 sites that could potentially host ERS or NIFA.