NJ DHS Comment Letter on Revision of Categorical Eligibility in SNAP

November 1, 2019

The Honorable Sonny Perdue


U.S Department of Agriculture

c/o Program Design Branch

Program Development Division

Food & Nutrition Service

3101 Park Center Drive

Alexandria, Virginia 22302

Re:      Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 84 Fed. Reg. 35,570, FNS-2018-0037 (July 24, 2019), RIN 0584-AE62 (to be codified at 7 C.F.R. pt. 273 (Proposed Rule)

Dear Secretary Perdue:

The New Jersey Department of Human Services submits the following comment in response to the informational analysis published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding the potential impacts of the Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) proposed rule on participants in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP).

Children in SNAP households are directly certified to receive free school meals through the NSLP and the NBP. In addition, USDA uses SNAP participation rates to determine eligibility for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which allows the nation’s highest poverty schools and districts to offer free meals to all students. When USDA originally published the proposed rule, its regulatory impact analysis did not discuss the significant impact on free school meal eligibility resulting from the contemplated elimination of categorical eligibility or explain why such an analysis was not included.

The limited informational analysis now being provided is not a meaningful analysis of the proposed rule’s foreseeable adverse impact on the revised estimate of nearly one million children who would lose direct certification for NSLP/SBP participation; the unspecified number of additional children who will be denied free meals because their schools or districts are no longer CEP eligible; and, the schools, districts and communities that either operate or substantially benefit from NSLP/SBP. Specifically, the informational analysis fails to:

  • Analyze the time and paperwork burdens on households with children no longer directly certified for NSLP/NBP through SNAP;
  • Analyze the impact of increased school meal debt on districts, families and children;
  • Analyze the impact of increased school meal shaming;
  • Estimate the number of children impacted because a household did not apply for otherwise available free or reduced-price school meals;
  • Identify the schools and districts that may lose CEP status;
  • Analyze the impacts on SNAP, NSLP and SBP oversight and administration at the state and local levels;
  • Analyze short and long-term nutrition, education and health impacts affecting a large, at-risk population not addressed when USDA drafted the proposed rule; and,
  • Substantially revise required financial and regulatory impact analyses.

The informational analysis and the proposed rule also:

  • Fail to consider the costs of terminating SNAP benefits for millions of people;
  • Depart from longstanding Department policy without justification; and,
  • Will significantly and substantially harm schools and school nutrition programs, state- and privately-funded hunger and nutrition programs, public health and state-funded medical benefit programs and other state-funded or administered programs that depend upon SNAP eligibility, while at the same time increasing state administrative costs and diverting resources from essential services.

The New Jersey Department of Human Services is committed to policies that promote the provision of essential nutrition benefits to eligible individuals and families, opposes the proposed rule as contrary to those policies, and urges the USDA to withdraw it in its entirety. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Carole Johnson