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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (1st District of Maine)

Following months of advocacy against the Trump administration’s cruel food assistance restrictions, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today applauded a U.S. District Court’s decision to block implementation of a rule that would have stripped Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits away from millions:

“SNAP serves as our nation’s largest and most effective line of defense against hunger, especially during a global pandemic when rates of food insecurity have risen dramatically. The Trump administration’s cruel policies are intended to make it difficult for families to put food on their table. 4 million Americans would be directly affected by food assistance cuts proposed by this administration, including this misguided rule which was rightly rejected by the District Court last night. When an almost identical policy was enacted during the LePage administration, Maine’s food insecurity rates skyrocketed and more than 9,000 Mainers lost access to SNAP as a result. 

“I’m glad that the courts have stopped implementation of this cruel and misguided rule which does nothing to reduce poverty. We should be increasing and expanding SNAP as a proven method for poverty and hunger eradication.”

Hunger in Maine during the global coronavirus pandemic could increase by about 40% this year, according to the Good Shepherd Food Bank. SNAP is not only the most effective programs for reducing hunger; it is one of the most effective and immediate forms of economic stimulus, injecting $1.79 into the economy for every $1 in benefits and helping lower health care costs by nearly $1,400 per person. 

Pingree has been a fierce defender of SNAP in the U.S. Congress. On multiple occasions dating back as early as April of 2019, Pingree wrote to USDA, demanding a stop to this rule. She has also cosponsored legislation to protect SNAP from the Trump administration’s repeated attempts to undermine the food assistance program, including the Protect SNAP Act, which would prevent USDA from restricting states’ ability to waive time limits during periods of higher unemployment, and the Ensuring Emergency Food Security Act, which protects SNAP from rules that would narrow eligibility for food assistance. 

USDA has two other proposed rules that would also undermine SNAP’s efficacy. The Revision of Categorical Eligibility in SNAP would create a sharp benefit cliff by imposing stricter income and asset limits for SNAP recipients. USDA estimates that Maine is one of seven states that would see 15% or more of its SNAP population removed from the SNAP under this rule. The Standardization of State Heating and Cooling Standard Utility Allowances would change the methodology states use to calculate standard utility allowances, which are used in benefit calculations. USDA estimates that half (49.84 percent) of Maine SNAP households would lose benefits under this proposal and only 0.51 would have their benefits increase. 

This press release is available online here.