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Attorney General Josh Stein Calls on Federal Government to Halt Action that Would Leave 3.1 Million Americans Hungry

For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, April 21, 2020

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today called on the federal government to immediately suspend a proposal that would cut food assistance for 3.1 million people during the COVID-19 pandemic. The food assistance provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) gives people with limited incomes the opportunity to buy nutritious food that they otherwise could not afford. It is a lifeline that could prevent families from going hungry at a time when more than 20 million Americans, including more than 670,000 North Carolinians, have lost jobs in the last month.

“Hunger makes doing the most basic things harder in the best of times, but to make these changes to the SNAP program during a global pandemic is life-threatening,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians are facing unemployment and economic hardship – we cannot add to their burdens.”

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Attorney General Stein and 21 other attorneys general urge the agency not to finalize a proposed rule that would take SNAP benefits from millions of low-income Americans, make it harder to qualify for food benefits, and impose significant new administrative burdens on states.

The Trump administration’s proposed rule would limit needy families’ access by eliminating a long-standing policy known as broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE). BBCE 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. Through BBCE, states can extend SNAP benefits to low-income families that slightly exceed the program’s gross income and asset limits if they also have significant critical expenses, like childcare, housing, or education. BBCE is used by 39 states, including North Carolina, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The multistate coalition asserts that if the proposed rule is finalized, it would:

  • Take food assistance away from 3.1 million people during the pandemic.
  • Impair the national response to COVID-19 by making it more difficult for people to comply with stay-at-home orders and practice social distancing when they are focused on finding food for themselves and their families.
  • Impose major administrative burden on states by forcing them to duplicate efforts to evaluate families for assistance when they have already qualified for other types of assistance.

Attorney General Stein is joined in sending today’s letter by the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, and the Corporation Counsel for the City of New York.

A copy of the letter is available here.

More on Attorney General Stein’s work to protect North Carolinians during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484