Advocates for Families in Need
211 7th Avenue N, Ste. 100
Nashville, TN 37219
Phone: (615)255-0331 Fax: (615)255-0354
For Immediate Release
SNAP final rule on time limit waivers to negatively impact access to food in Tennessee
Last week, the USDA issued its final rule on the SNAP time limit waivers that will harm the state’s ability to help Tennesseans put food on the table in times of economic uncertainty. The rule will take food off the tables of nearly 700,000 Americans, many who struggle to find sufficient work hours, and it is a step backwards in the fight against hunger in Tennessee. In response to the rule, Signe Anderson, Director of Nutrition Advocacy at the Tennessee Justice Center, said: “The Tennessee Justice Center is deeply disappointed in the Trump Administration’s decision to go ahead with the rule despite overwhelming comments in opposition when proposed in early 2019.”
In 1996, when Congress enacted time limits on SNAP (then called food stamps) for certain adults who were unable to document enough hours of work each month, Congress allowed states to request from USDA waivers on the time limits for areas with too few jobs. In the decades since, USDA has followed the decision of Congress and processed area waiver requests from states based on accepted economic factors and metrics. In 2019, seven counties (Bledsoe, Hancock, Jackson, Lake, Lauderdale, McNairy, Scott) in Tennessee were issued time limit waivers, allowing individuals struggling to find work or enough work hours the ability to eat. In 2017 Tennessee responded to the economic downturn by applying the time limit waivers to 86 out of 96 counties across the state to ensure that individuals struggling to find employment would not go hungry. The waivers allowed the state to lift the three-month limit to SNAP for underemployed and unemployed individuals between the ages of 19-49.
Through this rule the Administration has arbitrarily narrowed states’ ability to waive the time limit in many areas with insufficient jobs. The executive order undermines the bipartisan support that passed the 2018 Farm Bill and flies in the face of Tennessee Congress Members of both parties, coming almost a year after Congress passed the Farm Bill that left the current area waiver provisions in place.
Most provisions of the rule would take effect on April 1, 2020, unless Congress or the courts act to stop or delay it. If implemented, Tennessee would see higher rates of hunger and poverty. It will have a negative impact on individuals, communities, and the nation while doing nothing to improve the health and employment of those impacted by the rule. The rule will also harm the economy, grocery retailers and agricultural producers by reducing SNAP dollars available to spur local economic activity.
Under the final rule, states must rely on historical data that would not reflect the onset of economic downturns until many months later. One of the core strengths of SNAP is its responsiveness to change in economic conditions so that individuals who lose their source of income can quickly qualify for food assistance.
SNAP plays a critical role in addressing hunger and food insecurity in Tennessee and Tennessee Justice Center will continue to advocate against this deeply flawed and ill-conceived policy change.
If you or someone you know has lost their SNAP benefit because of the Three-month time limit, please contact TJC. We want to share information with elected officials about how this rule has already impacted working Tennesseans. In 2018 the following counties: Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Fentress, Grundy, Haywood, Hardeman, Perry, Wayne, Van Buren, had a waiver and lost it in 2019 so individuals in those counties may already be affected by the loss of waivers.
The following counties in Tennessee still operate under a time-limit waiver but are subject to change in 2020 under the new rule: Bledsoe, Hancock, Jackson, Lake, Lauderdale, McNairy, Scott.