Attorneys general in 24 states, including Kentucky and Illinois, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to express their opposition over a proposed rule change to the food stamp program.
Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul are among the coalition of Democratic AGs that filed the comment letter on Monday.
The USDA proposed the rule change two months ago, one that the agency says would close a loophole involving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“Some states are taking advantage of loopholes that allow people to receive the SNAP benefits who would otherwise not qualify, for which they are not entitled,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue during a radio news conference.
Currently, states can make people who receive minimal benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program be automatically eligible to take part in SNAP, the USDA says. But, the automatic eligibility means people who don’t need food stamps are still getting assistance, the agency says.
“Unfortunately, automatic eligibility is expanded to allow even millionaires and others who simply receive a TANF-funded brochure to become eligible for SNAP when they clearly don’t need it,” said Perdue.
In a news release, the USDA says a millionaire living in Minnesota successfully enrolled in the SNAP program “simply to highlight the waste of taxpayer money.” So, to close this loophole, the USDA is proposing that only households receiving at least $50 in TANF benefits every month for a minimum of six months can be automatically eligible for the food stamp program.
“By establishing clear standards and requiring that benefits be ongoing and substantial, the proposal will ensure SNAP benefits go toward Americans most in need,” the USDA says in its news release.
But the attorneys general say in their letter that the proposed rule “will cause significant economic and social harms to the states, including greater poverty and hunger, reduced productivity, and a higher incidence of significant health problems.” The attorneys general also say they are concerned the proposed rule would violate federal law, specifically the Administrative Procedure Act.
“The proposal reverses decades of consistent agency practice without reasoned explanation; fails to adequately consider its impacts on states, cities, and nonprofit food banks; and is inconsistent with the text and purpose of the Food and Nutrition Act,” the letter says. “The proposed rule also runs afoul of multiple executive orders. We therefore urge the department to abandon this cruel and unlawful proposal.”
In addition, Beshear’s office sent Local 6 a news release with the following statement from the attorney general:
“This proposal aims to take food away from the hungry — that is plain wrong. I am standing up to stop these unnecessary changes because far too many Kentucky families, seniors and children already lack access to enough food. I think everyone should work to solve hunger and not work to put road blocks in our families’ way of becoming food secure.”
After announcing the proposed rule change on July 23, the USDA opened a 60-day period for public comment. When the period ended on Monday, the agency received 78,740 comments. The agency will review the input before deciding that to do next.