Proposed Federal Rule Could Cut SNAP Benefits to Millions, Increase Food Insecurity
July 23, 2019
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced an upcoming a proposed rule that would limit its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), saving the department a reported $2.5 billion annually and cutting benefits to some three million people.
The SNAP program in Pennsylvania allows eligible low-income households to increase their food purchasing power at grocery stores and supermarkets. Both nationally and in Pennsylvania, 13 percent of households experience food insecurity.
The proposed changes include:
- Closing the “Nominal Benefits Loophole”
- Linking SNAP flexibility to substantial, ongoing, work-supporting benefits
- Improving consistency and equity between states
In a press release, the department said, “The proposed rule would fix a loophole that has expanded SNAP recipients in some states to include people who receive assistance when they clearly don’t need it.” The department also issued a fact sheet on the proposed rule.
HAP and Pennsylvania hospitals have called for support for SNAP as an important tool to help address food insecurity. Healthy food access is among the top social determinants of health. HAP has produced an interactive state map showing the prevalence of food insecurity by county across the Commonwealth. Food insecurity is even higher in Philadelphia—where it affects one in five people.
Studies also have demonstrated and Pennsylvania hospitals have experienced that people grappling with food insecurity are sicker and need more health care, resulting in more health care spending. A recent HAP blog—7 Possible Solutions to Food Insecurity from PA Hospitals—speaks to the diverse activities and initiatives hospitals are engaged in to address food insecurity.
During the spring, HAP convened a collaborative to identify strategies for addressing social determinants of health. The group will be developing measures and strategies that focus heavily on housing and food insecurity. In addition, through HAP’s Collaborative Opportunities to Advance Community Health (COACH) initiative, Philadelphia area hospitals and health systems continue to take steps to better screen patients for food insecurity and connect them to much-needed assistance.
Last spring, as federal lawmakers were in the process of reauthorizing the Farm Bill, along with nutrition programs, Pennsylvania hospitals participating in COACH traveled to Washington, D.C., to emphasize the connection between food insecurity, health outcomes, and health spending during a listening session in Washington, DC, for members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation and members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee. They called for federal lawmakers to support crucial investments in nutrition assistance programs, making the case that SNAP is an indispensable tool and wise investment.
Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted online for 60 days starting on Wednesday, July 24.
HAP will review the proposed rule and keep hospital members informed of policy developments. HAP also will continue to keep members apprised of the work being done by the collaborative to share best practices and leverage resources to address social determinants of health and encourages members to educate elected officials about the importance of these efforts.
Questions pertaining to federal advocacy may be directed to Laura Stevens Kent, vice president, federal advocacy. For additional information on healthy food access and food insecurity please contact Robert Shipp, HAP’s vice president, population health strategies.