The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

SNAP Alert: Info on final ABAWD rule posted today by USDA

Final ABAWD rule posted by USDA - Trump Administration Cutting SNAP for 700,000 - What to Know Today
We are writing to share some basic updates and information about the final "Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents" ABAWD rule. 
Quick overview: Non exempt single adults (no kids, not disabled) between 18 and 50 are subject to punitive work rules to keep SNAP for more than 3 months in a 36 month time period. Areas of the state with elevated rates of unemployment can qualify for a waiver so ABAWDs in those areas are not subject to this time limit. In the spring, the Trump Administration released a proposed rule that drastically limited the ways states can quality for those geographic waivers. About 100,000 comments were submitted in opposition to the rule when it was proposed. The Massachusetts SNAP Coalition did a HEROIC job commenting in opposition - including food banks, hospitals, legal services organizations, veteran's groups, universities, and many more.     
What is happening now?
The Trump Admin issued the final ABAWD rule this morning (see here). Here is a Washington Post article covering the rule. 
The rule - among other things - severely limits the options states have to prove eligibility for a waiver based on elevated rates of unemployment. This "waiver shrinkage" portion of the rule takes effect April 1, 2020  - unless halted by a court! We'll keep the Coalition posted if lawsuit(s) are filed. 
We expect that roughly 35,000 ABAWDs in Massachusetts could lose SNAP as a result of the rule change. USDA estimates nearly 700,000 will be cut off nationally. Rural and urban communities will both be harmed. We believe that the areas of the state with the largest numbers of people at risk include Fall River, New Bedford, Lawrence, Methuen, Chicopee, Holyoke, Springfield, and Westfield. Attached is a map of the current areas of the state waived from the time limit. We expect the vast majority if not all of these communities to lose waiver status under the final rule.
We are still working through the details -- this is not final information, just a sense of what we think will happen. 
What else do I need to know?
In case helpful for you, in addition to the above information we wanted to share some brief talking points on the impact of this rule in MA:
  • This would be a significant loss of federal SNAP dollars to the state - to the tune of approximately $65 million per year.  
  • This rule change is one of three attempts by the Trump Administration in 2019 to cut SNAP and seriously limit state flexibility in administering the SNAP program. 
  • The rule drastically undermines SNAP's ability to respond to worsening economic conditions. 
  • The rule change ignores the realities of the job market for low-skilled and low-wage workers,and would cause serious harm to unemployed and underemployed adults. This rule does nothing to help people get good, consistent jobs that pay a living wage. It simply ensures that people will go hungry. 
  • This rule change will increase hunger in our communities, harm retailers, increase health care costs, and increase poverty. 
More to come - stay tuned! In the meantime, please let us know by email or phone if you have questions. Also, tweet/social media in opposition to this rule, using the hashtags #HandsOffSNAP and #SNAPGrinch. Here's Vicky's tweet linked to the Washington Post article. 
This issue will be discussed tomorrow at the Central MA SNAP Coalition meeting (starts at 10 AM). If you would like to call in, fill out this form before 10 AM tomorrow and Vicky Negus will email you the call in number. 
File Attachment: 
PDF icon MA_waived_areas_2019.pdf174.06 KB

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