September 24, 2019
Contact: Matt Baca (505) 270-7148

ALBUQUERQUE, NM–Attorney General Balderas today joined a coalition of 24 attorneys
general opposing the Trump administration’s proposed changes to the Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The proposed changes would take basic food
assistance away from more than three million people, disqualify hundreds of thousands
of children from free school meals, and punish working families with modest savings. The
coalition filed a comment letter against a proposed United States Department of
Agriculture (USDA) rule that would end states’ ability to set rules for SNAP eligibility based
on the unique needs of their communities. The letter argues that the proposed rule would
violate federal law and harm the states, their residents, their local economies, and public
“The Trump administration continues to attack our most vulnerable populations, this time
by moving to literally take food out of the mouths of New Mexican children and our
elderly,” said Attorney General Balderas. “I will continue to fight these attempts and to
protect those without a voice who need our help the most.”
The USDA’s proposed rule, “Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program,” would affect the SNAP program—the country’s most
important anti-hunger program, often referred to as “food stamps.” The program provides
people with limited incomes the opportunity to access nutritious food that they otherwise
would not have. SNAP is a crucial component of federal and state efforts to help lift people
out of poverty.
Based on federal guidelines, each state designs its own process for how low-income
people can apply for SNAP benefits. The states must track whether participants meet the
income and asset requirements for the program on a monthly basis. The Trump
administration’s proposed rule would eliminate a long-standing policy known as “broad
based categorical eligibility” (BBCE). BBCE allows states to consider local economic
factors like high costs of living or costs of childcare when determining eligibility for SNAP.
It also lets states adopt less restrictive asset limits so that families, seniors, and people
with disabilities can have some savings without losing food aid. BBCE is used by 39
states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This proposed rule is the latest in a series of unlawful attempts by the Trump
administration to cut important safety-net programs. The AGs argue in the comment letter
that the proposed rule harms the states by:
• Taking food assistance away from 3.1 million vulnerable people: If finalized, the
proposed rule would cause 3.1 million low-income people, including working poor
families with children, seniors, and people with disabilities, to lose critical nutrition
assistance. According to the administration’s own calculations, the rule would cause lowincome Americans to lose at least $10.5 billion in SNAP benefits over four years.
• Causing 265,000 children to lose free school meals: Children in households that receive
SNAP are eligible for free meals at school. This rule change would mean an estimated
265,000 children would lose access to free school meals, leading to food insecurity and
malnourishment. According to studies, food-insecure children are more likely to have
learning difficulties and reduced academic performance, stomachaches, frequent
headaches and colds, iron deficiency anemia, asthma, and mental health problems.
• Disproportionately taking SNAP benefits from seniors: According to estimates, this rule
change would have a disproportionate impact on seniors. More than 13 percent of all
SNAP households with elderly members would lose food assistance, which could
potentially force low-income seniors to choose between paying for necessary medication
and food.
• Harming public health and increasing healthcare costs: States’ medical, disability, and
other systems will be burdened when people who lose SNAP benefits become food
insecure or malnourished. Food insecurity is linked to some of the most potentially costly
health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and complications in pregnancy. Studies have
shown that SNAP is associated with better health and, correspondingly, reduced health
care costs.
• Harming state economies: SNAP benefits are provided to low-income individuals with
immediate spending needs, and SNAP boosts local economies by increasing consumer
demand, injecting money directly into the economy, creating jobs, and supporting
national and local retailers and the food industry generally. If 3.1 million people lose SNAP
benefits, these cuts will have negative ripple effects across the nation’s economy.
• Increasing administrative burdens on states: The Government Accountability Office has
consistently found that polices like BBCE can save state and federal resources and
improve productivity. The proposed rule will eliminate these efficiency gains and increase
administrative costs—and every dollar that states spend on administrative costs is money
taken away from needy families.
The Attorneys General also argue that the proposed rule violates the federal
Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which governs how federal agencies implement rule
changes. Among other violations of the APA, the proposed rule fails to provide a
legitimate justification for changing longstanding USDA policy, conflicts with the clear
intent of Congress, and exceeds USDA’s authority.
Joining Attorney General Balderas in submitting the comments are the attorneys general
of the District of Columbia, New York, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware,
Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota,
Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia,
Washington, and Wisconsin.