March 14, 2023
This Congress is indeed a tale of very of two very different perspectives. Even as a “hunger cliff” is hitting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households in March, and tens of millions of people are losing an average of $82 a person a month in grocery money, some conservatives are pushing for harsh changes to further undermine SNAP’s access for unemployed and underemployed people.
In contrast, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Alma Adams (D-NC), and 40 other original cosponsors have reintroduced a bill to eliminate time limits on SNAP eligibility. The Improving Access to Nutrition Act (H.R. 1510) is a long overdue and permanent law change that will promote food security and equity for Americans with low incomes. It no longer would punish unemployed and underemployed people for not documenting sufficient hours of work each month.
Since it was enacted in 1996, the SNAP three months out of 36 months eligibility time limit has taken food off the tables of many struggling adults, ages 18 to 50. In addition, these time limits on SNAP eligibility have exacerbated racial inequities and been counterproductive, especially considering SNAP’s effectiveness in improving economic stability, food security, health, and well-being. Currently, time limits have been suspended for the duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Declaration, which is expected to sunset on May 11, 2023.
SNAP time limits are completely misplaced in terms of a sensible and effective jobs policy for the nation. SNAP participation is not a cause but a symptom of a labor market that lacks enough jobs with full–time hours and wages to provide sufficient family– sustaining incomes.
Indeed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in February 2023, more than 4.1 million U.S. workers with jobs wanted but couldn’t obtain sufficient hours of work — they were “part-time for economic reasons.”
The conservative push to worsen the time limits by expanding the populations subject to them — to older workers and parents with children age 7 or older — are ill-conceived recycled proposals that have been rejected previously, including in the 2018 Fam Bill. The Trump administration’s attempt to make the current time limits even more restrictive via regulatory change drew more than 100,000 public comments in opposition (a 2020 federal district court order stopped it from taking effect).
Public opinion polling suggests support for lifting the SNAP time limit. In April 2022, the Century Foundation reported that a Data for Progress poll it commissioned “asked whether voters support expanding access to federal food assistance for people struggling to meet the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s rigid work reporting requirements, which — prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which put that policy on hold until the end of the Public Health Emergency — excluded countless disabled people from receiving food assistance. Sixty-two percent of disabled voters support extending the pause on this policy after the pandemic ends, and 57 percent of voters overall —including 69 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Independents, and 44 percent of Republicans — support doing so.” (see figure 4)
Take Action Today
Join FRAC in urging Members of Congress to cosponsor and pass H.R. 1510 to end time limits in SNAP and protect and strengthen SNAP in the 2023 Farm Bill.