Protect food assistance

A proposed change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would cause nearly 150,000 Michiganders —including 58,000 children — to lose access to food assistance. Use your voice to protect SNAP.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed a change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that will have devastating consequences, resulting in nearly 150,000 Michiganders losing access to food assistance — including 58,000 children.

Click here to submit your public comment.

At United Way for Southeastern Michigan, we work to ensure that families are able to meet their basic needs, including access to food. SNAP helps struggling families put food on the table, and helps make sure kids aren’t going through their school day hungry. It allows recipients — including low-income working families, seniors and people with disabilities — to spend food assistance dollars at their local grocery stores and farmers markets, increasing access to nutritious food and boosting local economies.

Currently, states have the flexibility to make families automatically eligible for SNAP benefits if they receive certain child care assistance benefits or employment supports. The current rule also keeps families more financially stable by allowing them to maintain food assistance benefits even if they grow their savings or get a raise in income.

The USDA’s proposal would eliminate this eligibility option, significantly reducing the number of people who are eligible for the food assistance they need to get by. It would also force families to deplete their savings and sell their assets — like their vehicles — to keep their benefits.

The USDA’s proposed change will lead to more than 85,000 adults and 58,000 children in Michigan losing access to the food assistance they depend on. For children, the negative impact is even greater. Not only will kids from low-income households face increased food insecurity at home, this change will also result in reduced access to free and reduced-price school meals.

This change will also increase the burden on state governments, put more strain on organizations that provide food assistance and increase barriers for families to receive help.

We need your help to send a message to the USDA to protect SNAP and struggling Michigan families!

Click here to submit your comment.

What is SNAP?

SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food assistance to more than 1.3 million Michiganders. A household is eligible for SNAP if they are below 130 percent of the federal poverty level and have assets below $2,250 (or below $3,500 if the household includes a person who is elderly or has a disability). This asset limit includes countable assets like the value of a household’s vehicle and their savings account, which can severely limit a family’s ability to access the assistance they need. For many families, accessing SNAP when they are experiencing a crisis like a job loss would mean they would have to sell their vehicle and deplete their savings first. This can make it difficult, if not impossible, for family members to find a job or continue working, because getting to and from work without a vehicle in our region is very difficult, time consuming and often unreliable.

What is Broad Based Categorical Eligibility?

Broad Based Categorical Eligibility, or BBCE, is an option that was given to states to make SNAP more flexible and responsive to a family’s needs. It allows states to make families automatically eligible for SNAP if they are receiving a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funded benefit, such as child care assistance or employment supports. BBCE also allows states to increase income eligibility requirements up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level and increase or eliminate asset limits.

What is the Proposed Rule Change and What are its Impacts?

The USDA has proposed a rule change that will eliminate BBCE. This change will lead to fewer people being able to access SNAP. States will no longer have flexibility in determining what the requirements for accessing food assistance should be for the families, seniors and people with disabilities living in their states. This change will sharpen the benefits cliff that many working families experience.

Currently, if a family member receives a small raise in income, the family will see their SNAP benefits decrease marginally until that family is at 200 percent of the federal poverty level. With the change to BBCE, a small raise could lead to the family losing all food assistance, which would effectively put the family in a worse financial position than before the raise.

In addition, BBCE lets states determine asset limits or waive asset limits. This allows families to keep the vehicle they need to get to work and to safely get their children to school. It also allows seniors to age with dignity, by allowing them to keep their vehicles and remain in their homes while still receiving the food benefits they need to make ends meet.

When a family loses access to SNAP, their children also lose automatic access to free school meals. Schools are currently able to provide free meals to all students based on the percentage of students that automatically qualify. With fewer students qualifying, some school districts will no longer be able to provide all students with the meals they need to succeed in their education.

Without BBCE, millions of households will be at great risk of food insecurity, financial instability and homelessness.

Why is United Way involved?

United Way for Southeastern Michigan believes every person should have access to their basic needs. We work to ensure all families have access to the nutritious foods they need to grow and thrive. We also support initiatives like Better With Breakfast, which works to make sure all children start their day with a full stomach. This rule change will jeopardize the financial security of our families and increase hunger in our schools.

With the help of the ALICE Report, we know that 44 percent of households in our region struggle to make ends meet and must make difficult choices for their families, such as whether to pay their rent or put food on the table. The ALICE Report shows us that the budget required for a family to meet their needs is far above the federal poverty level. That’s why the flexibility of BBCE is so important for families in our region. It allows families to continue receiving some support as they increase their income, encouraging work and allowing households to save for future emergencies which can help them be more stable if a crisis occurs, reducing the likelihood that they will need food assistance again in the future.

Eliminating BBCE will increase food insecurity for more than 85,000 adults and 58,000 children in Michigan. We need your help to tell the USDA to protect SNAP by keeping Broad Based Categorical Eligibility.

Click here to submit your comment to the USDA.