June 17, 2022

On Tuesday, June 14, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a final rule updating Federal-State Agreements (FSAs) that are critical for ensuring civil rights protections in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The final rule, which was proposed by the Obama administration, will take effect on August 15, 2022. It reaffirms USDA’s commitment to ensuring “no person in the United States shall, on the grounds of sex, including gender identity and sexual orientation, race, color, age, political belief, religious creed, disability, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be otherwise subject to discrimination under SNAP.”

SNAP FSAs signed by USDA and State SNAP agencies outline how states will administer SNAP and affirm that states will abide by applicable civil rights laws in doing so. Based on recommendations from the United States Department of Justice, the final rule makes explicit that a state’s FSA “assurance is given in consideration of and for the purpose of obtaining any and all [F]ederal assistance extended to the [S]tate by the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, as amended[,]” that State SNAP agencies have continued responsibility to collect and track civil rights data for USDA review and enforcement, and that USDA has the right to seek judicial enforcement for state violations of the FSA.

The final rule will add to the current FSA template list of civil rights laws several more recent enactments that also are applicable to SNAP:

  • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.), including protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
  • The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (42 U.S.C. 6101 et seq)
  • Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (42 U.S.C. 12131-12189)
  • Executive Order 13166, ‘‘Improving Access to Persons with Limited English Proficiency’’

The final rule continues the responsibility of states with Indian reservations to be responsive to the special needs of those residents “and consult in good faith with tribal organizations” about program operations affecting tribal members.

Together, the final rule revisions aim to promote more uniform and equitable SNAP administration and operations across the country.

What Anti-Hunger Advocates Can Do

Advocates can ensure that State agencies uphold civil rights and advance equitable SNAP administration by working with USDA, states, tribal organizations, and other stakeholders. Important actions include:

  • Work with states to ensure updated language to FSAs at the time of their next SNAP state plan submission and provide a copy of that within 120 days of the final rule’s effective date (i.e., update language by August 15, 2022, and provide a copy to USDA by December 15, 2022).
  • Work with states and other stakeholders to ensure equitable and just administration of SNAP.
  • Engage with SNAP-eligible participants to ensure they are knowledgeable about their civil rights, including updated civil rights protections for LGBTQIA+ individuals.
    • For technical assistance on that SNAP policy, contact FRAC SNAP Deputy Director Andrew Cheyne via acheyne@frac.org