Food Bank Council of Michigan responds to ABAWD rule

LANSING — The Food Bank Council of Michigan today called significant cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) harmful to the those with low-wage jobs, unpredictable schedules, or who are between jobs.

“The Food Bank Council of Michigan believes people have the right to feed themselves with dignity,” said Phil Knight, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan. “When they are unable to do so, it is incumbent upon society, including government, to support the citizenry with assistance that uplifts and empowers them toward selfsufficiency.”

Under the rule, nearly 700,000 adults without dependents deemed to have ABAWD status can only access SNAP benefits for three months within a 36-month time period. More often than not, SNAP is the only support they are eligible to receive, and the rule will force them deeper into hunger.

While Michigan already implemented these limits in 2017, the new rule severely restricts a state’s ability to waive the time limit in the future. This prevents SNAP from responding effectively during an economic downturn. Research conducted by the University of Michigan shows a negative impact after the rule was implemented in Michigan in Washtenaw County, including an increase in emergency food pantry participation.

“Limiting access to a basic need such as food will not make it easier for a person to find and retain work,” said Knight. “This rule harms participants, agricultural producers and the economy.”

The publication of the new rule comes even though it was excluded in the final version of the 2018 Farm Bill, which passed with historic bipartisan support. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the rule “restores the system to what Congress intended” when, in fact, it defies Congressional intent, said Knight.

This was the first of the three proposed cuts to SNAP this year. The USDA also proposes cutting categorical eligibility which primarily harms children and working families as well as the Standard Utility Allowance that disproportionately impacts older adults and people with disabilities, especially in states with harsh seasonal climates like Michigan.

“SNAP is a critical resource used to alleviate food insecurity. We oppose this rule that would limit access to food, hurt our economy and shift the responsibility away from the U.S. government to the charitable sector,” said Knight. Contact your Congressman to tell them how this affects you. — G.G.