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Federal SNAP Legislation and Farm Bill 2023

The 2023 Farm Bill creates an opportunity to strengthen the SNAP program. Here are TJC’s priorities for the upcoming Farm bill. This legislation would have a positive impact on Tennesseans across the state by improving access and reducing hunger and poverty. 

Bills that Improve Access to the SNAP Program 

  • LIFT the BAR Act (Rep. Jayapal) 

  • The LIFT the BAR Act would align federal assistance programs with the eligibility standards of the Affordable Care Act, allowing all lawfully present immigrants to access federal programs without discriminatory bars or waiting periods.  

  • This bill would abolish the 3-month time limit for most SNAP recipients who don’t meet work requirements. Currently, individuals ages 18-49 with no dependents who can work and do not meet other exemptions must prove that they work at least 20 hours per week to receive SNAP, otherwise they are limited to just 3 months of SNAP benefits in a three-year time period.  

  • Enhanced Access to SNAP Act (Rep. Gomez/Sen. Gillibrand) 

  • This bill would remove the 20-hour-per-week work requirement for students enrolled in full time college that is currently required for SNAP benefits. This change would allow millions of college students to focus on learning instead of working in order to maintain their ability to eat. Hunger should not be a part of the college experience.  

  • This bill does two things: 1) it removes the lifetime ban to accessing SNAP for people with drug felonies and 2) allows them to begin the application process 30 days before their release date so they have access to benefits on Day One. This ban has been in place for almost 30 years and can contribute to recidivism.  

  • SNAP benefits will be calculated with a new low-cost food plan, which is a better model for current-day family needs. It would also eliminate the cap on the SNAP Excess Shelter Deduction and streamline SNAP Standard Excess Medical Deductions for persons who are older or have disabilities (with a minimum standard of $140). With these changes, people participating in SNAP would no longer have to choose between paying for food, housing, and things like medicine. 

  • This bill would allow SNAP dollars to be spent on hot, prepared foods. This is a massive barrier to those without the ability to store or cook foods, effectively limiting their ability to use their SNAP benefits.  

Take Action on These Bills: 

  • Email, write, call or engage on social media with your congressmen to urge them to support these bills. Tell them who you are, how these programs help you, someone you know or how they improve your community. To find out how to contact your legislator, click HERE 


Bills that Harm the SNAP Program

  • TJC opposes this bill strongly. This bill would hinder access to SNAP. It would change the ages for work requirements from 18-49 to 18-64, meaning that individuals up to age 65 will be required to work 20 hours per week in order to maintain their benefits (if they don’t meet other exemptions). In addition, this bill would affect households with children. Currently, households with a child under 18 are exempt from work requirements, but this bill would lower that age to 7. This bill would impose stricter time limits on SNAP recipients than ever before. TJC vehemently opposes this bill. 

Take Action on This Bill: 

  • Contact the Tennessee legislators who are serving on the House Agriculture Committee overseeing the Farm Bill. They are Rep. Scott DesJarlais (TN-04) and Rep. John Rose (TN-06). Let them know that you support bills that improve access to the SNAP program for eligible Tennesseans and that you oppose H.R. 1581 which would limit SNAP for working individuals.  

  • Contact Rep. Andy Ogles’s office to tell him that you oppose H.R. 1581 that he has co-sponsored. Let him know that time limits to SNAP and taking away basic assistance does not help Tennesseans find work. 

  • Contact your Senators Blackburn and Hagerty and let them know you support a Farm Bill that protects the SNAP program and improves access for Tennesseans with low incomes. These bills will be voted on by both the U.S. House and Senate and your elected officials should know your position. 


Bills that Improve Access to School Meal Programs

  • This bill would ensure that schools have the necessary federal flexibilities to continue serving meals to students during certain unanticipated school closures such as natural disasters and extreme weather events, public health emergencies, or other such events. 

  • This bill would increase the amount of money that schools are reimbursed when they offer children free or reduced meals during school days. This will incentivize schools to participate in these programs, ensuring that children are able to access healthy school meals.  

  • This bill would make it easier for schools to opt into community eligibility provisions (CEP), allowing them to offer free school meals for all students. Currently, a school must have at least 40% of their students who qualify for free meals to implement CEP. This bill would lower that percentage to 25%. This would make millions of children eligible to receive free school meals. 

Take Action on These Bills: 

  • Email, write call or engage on social media with your congressmen to urge them to support these bills. Tell them who you are, how these programs help you, someone you know or how they improve your community. To find out how to contact your legislator, click HERE

Tennessee State Legislation 

The Tennessee state General Assembly adjourned the 2023 legislative session for the year on April 21. Stay tuned for future updates as we get closer to the 2024 legislative session set to reconvene on January 9, 2024.  Here are the bills that TJC monitored during this past session: 

  • Bills that Improve School Meals: 

  • This bill would provide free school meals for all students in Tennessee. This would be a huge win for child nutrition in our state, which is why it has TJC’s full support. We expect this bill to be picked back up next legislative session.  

  • Bills that Harm the SNAP Program: 

  • This bill would have taken away DHS’s waiver authority and created stricter time limits to SNAP. It would have harmed anyone who struggles to find work: formerly incarcerated people, returning service members, survivors of domestic violence, rural Tennesseans, and more. We advocated against this bill while it was in session, and it did not pass. However, we anticipate that it will come up again in the next legislative session. 

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