Press Release: Advocates call on Vermonters to fight cruel Trump administration proposal to cut food assistance
August 29, 2019
Last month, the Trump administration announced its latest attempt to take food away from over 3 million working families, people with disabilities, and older Americans in need by proposing to force Vermont and 42 other states to change the way they have run the SNAP program (called 3SquaresVT here in Vermont) for over 20 years. This week, Hunger Free Vermont launches a campaign to fight this cruel proposal and protect our state’s first line of defense against hunger, calling on Vermonters to submit public comments in opposition to this proposal by September 23rd.
For over 40 years, 3SquaresVT has been our nation’s first line of defense against hunger, because it works. It provides, on average, over 70,000 Vermonters and 40 million Americans with money to spend on food in grocery stores and farmers markets each month. It is proven to reduce hunger, lift people out of poverty, and leads to positive short and long-term health, education, and employment outcomes.
‘Broad-based categorical eligibility’ is a provision used by our state to help 3SquaresVT reach households that are working and may have slightly higher incomes but significant expenses (such as high housing, medical, and childcare costs). It also lets 3SquaresVT food benefits reach those older Vermonters on fixed incomes who have some savings for emergencies, and those working families getting themselves to a better place by saving a few thousand dollars for expenses like increased heating costs in the winter or a security deposit on an apartment. It makes 3SquaresVT even more effective and responsive to the needs of food insecure Vermonters, and is used by most states in the US. The Trump administration is proposing to essentially eliminate this provision, and thereby increase hunger in our state and across the nation.
If enacted, this proposal would have devastating effects for thousands of Vermont families who rely on 3SquaresVT to put enough food on the table while working towards economic self sufficiency. Those likely to be affected by this proposal disproportionately are working families with children, and plentiful research shows that food insecure children have higher rates of poor health, higher rates of hospitalization, and delays in cognitive development, among other learning issues. Ensuring that children have access to a program that is proven to reduce food insecurity and poverty is essential - we should be increasing benefits and easing access, rather than putting working families at risk of increased hunger and hardship.
According to conservative estimates by the Vermont Agency of Human Services, if this proposal goes into effect, approximately 5,204 households, including 13,366 Vermonters are expected to lose benefits. This accounts for 13% of our state’s current caseload, and equates to approximately $7.5 million lost in annual benefits for Vermonters. Furthermore, many of the over 4,600 children in these potentially affected households may lose access to free meals at school. 3SquaresVT makes families automatically eligible for free breakfast and lunch at school - if they lose 3SquaresVT benefits, they may lose access to this critical nutrition resource as well.
Despite the fact that Congress recently passed a bipartisan Farm Bill that considered and rejected this change, the Trump administration is attempting to bypass the legislative branch by enacting it through administrative action.
“This proposal is another in a long line of actions by this administration to demonize low-income Americans and keep them from applying for programs that help them and their families get what they need to thrive,” says Anore Horton, Executive Director of Hunger Free Vermont. “We are fighting this proposal, but we need your help now. Please submit a public comment opposing this change to 3SquaresVT, and then ask everyone you know to do the same before September 23rd. We must all make our voices heard to protect the nutrition program that keeps thousands of Vermonters and millions of Americans from going hungry.”
Before any changes go into effect, the Trump administration must allow for a public comment period. Public comments can be submitted on behalf of individuals and groups (such as an organization, company, agency, coalition, etc.), and are due by September 23rd. Submitting a public comment is a powerful way to share your support of 3SquaresVT, which helps tens of thousands of Vermonters put more and better food on their tables each month. Visit www.hungerfreevt.org/protect3squaresvt for more information, resources, tips, and template language you can use to craft comments opposing this proposal and share it with your networks and on social media.
About Hunger Free Vermont: Hunger Free Vermont is a statewide nonprofit organization that works with state agencies and community groups to end the injustice of hunger and malnutrition for all Vermonters. Since 1993 Hunger Free Vermont’s outreach programs have substantially enhanced Vermont’s nutrition safety net and increased access to nutritious foods. www.hungerfreevt.org