More Than 620,000 Older Adults May Lose
Nutrition Benefits Under Proposed Rule
Use n4a Template Letter to Respond to SNAP Changes
September 16, 2019
A rule change proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) would transform the way that many states assess eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and could eliminate eligibility for three million current participants, including an estimated 620,000 older adults.
The FNS proposal makes changes to the process that many states use to determine SNAP eligibility—known as Broad Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE)—to significantly restrict reciprocal eligibility for multiple income-support programs. Currently, states may confer SNAP eligibility if an individual or household qualifies for benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. BBCE is a streamlined determination process that reduces the administrative burden of more than 40 state agencies and ensures that vulnerable individuals, including millions of older adults, receive access to SNAP benefits to reduce food insecurity and improve health.
According to USDA’s own estimates, more than 13 percent of all SNAP households with older adults will lose benefits under the proposed rule. This means that of the approximately 4.7 million older adults currently enrolled in SNAP, a minimum of 620,000 could lose benefits that help them fulfill basic nutritional needs—resulting in a higher risk for negative health outcomes and increased medical costs. The 620,000 older adults who risk losing SNAP benefits under the proposed rule will also have more difficulty maintaining a basic standard of living as they may be forced to choose between paying for food, medicine, rent, utilities, transportation and other necessities. (See how your state would be affected.)
n4a plans to comment on these proposed changes, and we encourage others in the Aging Network to do the same by submitting comments highlighting the implications that this proposed rule could have on older adults in your communities. Here are several ways you can weigh in.
- Put Your Agency on Record. Submit formal comments about what this change could mean for the older adults that you serve. You can use n4a’s template letter to comment online at https://www.regulations.gov (search for Docket No. FNS-2018-0037). Make sure to include any information that you can find about the implications this proposed change would have for older adults in your state, which you can learn about here. Also consider incorporating individual stories about the importance of SNAP benefits to individuals in your community.
- Consider Submitting Individual Comments. Even if your agency cannot comment, you can weigh in personally online and, if possible, encourage your advisory council members and other advocates to do the same.
- Contact Your Elected Officials. Members of your congressional delegation should understand your concerns about the effects that this rule change would have on older adults in your community. If you submit a formal comment letter, make sure to send a copy to your Representative(s) and Senators. Even if your agency cannot formally comment, it is still a good idea to reach out to your legislators to voice your concerns.
Thank you for your advocacy on this important issue!
Time to Get Loud on OAA Funding!
Engage Your Grassroots in Advocacy Opportunities Now
August 15, 2019
Members of Congress are in their districts and states for the August recess and will return to DC in September to tackle decisions about federal funding for FY 2020. The Bipartisan Budget Agreement that increased overall federal budget caps for FY 2020 and FY 2021 sets the stage for lawmakers to finalize spending decisions by the end of September when current FY 2019 funding expires. More details about the budget agreement compromise are available in n4a’s recent Legislative Update.
In order to finalize all FY 2020 discretionary funding bills, including those for Older Americans Act and other critical aging programs, the House and the Senate will need to agree on funding levels for thousands of individual programs.
The good news is that earlier this summer the House passed significant increases for OAA and other important federal aging programs. This means advocates need to encourage Senate appropriators to adopt the House-passed increases for critical aging supports! It’s vital that your agency and your grassroots advocates connect with federal lawmakers NOW about the importance of adopting funding increases for Older Americans Act (OAA) and other aging programs.
Please augment the appropriations outreach that you have already done with your Members of Congress by asking your grassroots to take action, too. We need Members of Congress—especially in the Senate—to hear directly from their constituents who benefit from the OAA programs and services that you deliver.
n4a has updated our Grassroots Advocacy Alert Template included in our FY 2020 Appropriations Campaign Toolkit, which we hope will help you to urge your network of local advocates to take action now! Here’s your to-do list:
- Put your agency on record. Send an updated letter to your Members of Congress—especially in the Senate. Use n4a’s updated template letter to send your own messages about the importance of funding increases to your Members of Congress.
- Engage your grassroots. Using our toolkit or your own creative ideas, get the word out in your networks that action is needed now! Here are some approaches you could take:
- Ask your grassroots to email or post a short social media note to lawmakers. Members monitor their email/website traffic for constituent correspondence, and personal messages resonate most. Ask your advocates to share why OAA is important to them.
- Ask local advocates to call Congress. Included in the Template Alert are instructions to call lawmakers and a short sample script that constituents can use.
- Share stories in person. Encourage your local grassroots advocates to attend a townhall meeting during the rest of August to share the importance of funding for OAA. You can also invite your Member of Congress to come see your agency in action and meet some of their constituents receiving OAA services! Or, better yet, do both!
We need all AAAs, Title VI Native American programs and local allies to raise their voices in support of Older Americans Act funding. We must ensure that all members of Congress know how important robust federal funding for OAA is to promote the health, well-being and independence of their older constituents and those who care for them.
More advocacy resources are available on n4a’s FY 2020 Appropriations Campaign page. Stay tuned for more updates from n4a and thank you for your advocacy on this important issue!
Bipartisan Agreement Would Lift Budget Caps Through FY 2021
The 2019 Bipartisan Budget Agreement for FY 2020 and FY 2021 would increase overall budget caps for non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs by $88 billion in FY 2020 to $621.5 billion, which is approximately a 16 percent boost from the budget limits established in the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) and a $34 billion (5.6 percent) increase over FY 2019 funding. In FY 2021, the NDD funding cap would be $626.5 billion. The draft agreement would also increase funding for defense discretionary spending and includes one-time funding of $2.5 billion for the 2020 Census.
The bipartisan deal would be the latest in a series of two-year deals to lift the BCA’s too-stringent caps on discretionary programs. While previous budget agreements have included “policy riders” (legislative language unrelated to budget levels) and other must-pass bills, the current draft is limited to increasing the budget caps and suspending the debt limit.
What Does a Deal Mean for Aging and Health Programs?
Assuming this bipartisan deal passes both chambers and is signed into law—which is likely but never certain these days—congressional appropriators would have until September 30 to negotiate the details of their FY 2020 spending bills.
While it is good news that the agreement boosts overall caps for NDD funding, we don’t yet have specific details on what this would mean for individual agencies and line-items such as OAA and other aging programs.
The good news is that the House approved their funding proposals earlier this summer for the spectrum of discretionary programs supporting older adults and caregivers. The appropriations bills that passed the House include a number of important funding increases for OAA and other aging programs, which puts advocates in a good position to encourage the Senate to adopt the House-passed funding levels. The Senate has not yet produced its spending bills, instead choosing to wait until an overall budget deal is passed. Given the timing, the Senate is likely to start working directly with the House to negotiate the final appropriations measures.
Next Steps for Aging Advocates
If this 2019 Bipartisan Budget Agreement is approved, advocates should once again weigh in with their lawmakers—particularly in the Senate—to encourage adopting House-approved funding increases for aging and other NDD programs in FY 2020. Aging advocates must continue the drumbeat to increase funding for OAA Title III B Supportive Services, III E Family Caregiver Support and Title VI Native American aging programs; to protect SHIP funding, which was had been threatened in recent years; and to increase funding for all Older Americans Act programs and other essential aging and health care services. For more information and resources to assist you in your appropriations advocacy, check out n4a’s FY 2020 Appropriations Campaign page.
Stay tuned to n4a’s Legislative Updates and Answers on Aging weekly member newsletter as this bipartisan budget agreement moves forward, and watch for additional Advocacy Alerts with messaging for your Members of Congress about appropriations priorities as lawmakers finalize FY 2020 spending bills!