Attorney General Dana Nessel joined 21 other attorney generals and the corporation counsel for the city of New York in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) demanding the agency not finalize a proposed rule. It would take Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits away from 3.1 million people, including an estimated 144,000 Michiganders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The USDA’s proposed rule would also eliminate a long-standing policy known as “broad-based categorical eligibility” (BBCE), which allows states to make low-income families automatically eligible for SNAP benefits if they have already qualified to receive certain other types of public assistance.
BBCE is used by 39 states, including Michigan, according to a document posted on the Congressional Regional Service website.
In the letter, the attorneys warn that it’s irresponsible to move forward with these changes during the global COVID-19 pandemic. They said doing so would impair the national response to COVID-19, force states to duplicate efforts as they evaluate BBCE residents for program, and that it would run counter to guidance from the Office of Management and Budget directing federal agencies to “prioritize all resources to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
The 21 attorneys general and the corporation counsel also emphasize there is no plausible argument that implementing the proposed rule would help slow the spread of COVID-19 and urge USDA to focus on supporting families throughout this crisis instead of denying needed assistance.
In a release, Nessel said food insecurity has been a concern for millions of people across the country for a long time, and now even more Americans are struggling to feed their families due to the COVID-19 pandemic impacting people’s incomes.
“This proposed rule, if finalized, would only make it worse, and the USDA must reconsider adoption of it to avoid exacerbating an already terrible situation,” said Nessel.
Other attorneys general in the coalition are from the District of Columbia, New York, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.