Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh today joined a coalition of 24 Attorneys General opposing proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The SNAP program provides people with limited incomes access to nutritious food.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed changes to the SNAP program that would put over 50,000 Marylanders at risk for losing the benefit. The most vulnerable include seniors and children.
The coalition filed a comment letter against the USDA proposal, “Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” that would end states’ ability to set rules for SNAP eligibility based on the unique needs of their communities.
Based on federal guidelines, each state designs its own process for how low-income people can apply for SNAP benefits. The states must track whether participants meet the income and asset requirements for the program on a monthly basis.
The Trump administration’s proposed rule would eliminate a long-standing policy known as “broad based categorical eligibility” (BBCE). BBCE allows states to consider local economic factors, like high costs of living or costs of childcare, when determining eligibility for SNAP. It also lets states adopt less restrictive asset limits so that families, seniors, and people with disabilities can have some savings without losing food aid.
BBCE is used by 39 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In the letter, the attorneys general argue that the proposed rule harms the states by taking away food assistance from vulnerable people; curtailing access to school meals; disproportionately taking SNAP benefits from seniors; harming public health and increasing healthcare costs; harming state economies, and increasing administrative burdens on states.
The attorneys general also argue that the proposed rule violates the federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which governs how federal agencies implement rule changes. Among other violations of the APA, the proposed rule fails to provide a legitimate justification for changing longstanding USDA policy, conflicts with the clear intent of Congress, and exceeds USDA’s authority.
In addition to Maryland, the letter was signed by the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.