Action Needed: Rule Revision of Categorical Eligibility in SNAP

Over the summer, the Trump administration proposed a rule change that would end “broad based categorical eligibility”. Categorical eligibility allows each state to opt out of federal rules when enrolling people in SNAP and other assistance programs. For example, under BBCE, states can choose to allow income above the federal limit. This has been important in areas where cost of living is higher. States can also opt out of the rule that disqualifies people for having assets or a savings account (federal rule limits $2,250, or $3,500 for senior citizens). Again, states may choose to ignore this because of cost of living or just common sense circumstances. Like if someone owns a jet ski but it’s the middle of winter and it’s not exactly prime time to sell a jet ski, the case worker probably is not going to count that as an asset. Or more practically, the federal asset rule also applies to vehicles, as in the ones people use to get to work, school, and doctor appointments.  It’s common sense to opt out of this rule especially in rural areas or places public transportation is sparse.

BBCE also enables states to enroll people in SNAP (or other safety net programs)  automatically if they’ve applied for other benefits which eliminates a lot of time & labor fr both recipient and workers.  If the categorical eligibility rule is eliminated, some people will automatically be dropped from receiving SNAP if they were receiving it after applying for another program.

Overall, this change is expected to impact 3.1 million people currently receiving SNAP, including some children being kicked off the free school lunch programs.

Public comments are still open HERE for the next 10 days (closed on 9/23/19) . I don’t know how much faith I have that public comments will be really listened to enough to change this policy but it can’t hurt. Always get after your reps on these issues,too.
Since Trump has been in office, it’s estimated that 6 million people have been dropped from SNAP. This isn’t a reflection of a healthy economy that’s ensuring folks have enough on their own to get by. It’s a direct result of policy shifts already instated such as stricter work requirements that prevent underemployed and under earning, unemployed, and even disabled people to qualify.

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4 thoughts on “Action Needed: Rule Revision of Categorical Eligibility in SNAP

  1. Getting SNAP is hard enough. My daughter is 19 and going to college. Because of special rules for college students we didn’t qualify for SNAP when I was only getting $147 a week from unemployment. Too much money for one person, surprisingly. How someone could pay rent and utilities and get food for $600 a month I have no idea.

  2. My 36 year old son is mentally impaired and unable to work. His condition is such that he will never “improve”. He has collected SSI since he was a baby. When he turned 18, he became eligible for food assistance, even though he continued to live in my home with me. We applied once and it continued uninterrupted until about 2 yrs ago. First, they took away $72 of his food benefits, then they started requiring him to be “re-certified” every year. Some of the questions are confusing. I believe they are that way so it’s easier to answer the questions incorrectly ultimately making the person ineligible so they must re-apply, which is a really huge hassle. I’m a college graduate and find the questions confusing! For the record, I was just “bounced” from my state’s Health Care program (under the ACA) because they require the “proofs” in 3 days which is impossible through regular mail (I am unable to send them electronically). This is ALL just a war against the poor. It’s so stressful every month wondering what “surprises” await you at the mailbox and there’s no one to talk to because everyone, it seems, is so anti-social programs oriented (at least where I live). We have to be sure we all show up at the voting booth or get your absentee ballots in to get new leadership.

    1. I certainly agree that the process is meant to reduce the number of people receiving help. I received a “missed interview” (for SNAP) giving a phone number as the only method of contact. I called early yesterday morning. Needless to say, the phone system is bizarre and difficult. Someone finally called me back at noon to tell me the unit I need to call shuts down at (yep) noon. As you probably know, that’s not unusual.

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