The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed new rules for the food stamp program that would seriously undermine low-income children and families' access to food stamps. The draft rules remove or weaken protections that are intended to ensure that working families with low earnings can receive food stamps. For example, the proposed rules increase the likelihood that food stamps will be denied by repeatedly requiring families to document very small changes in income. Protections such as requirements that states seek to reschedule missed appointments or contact a household leaving welfare to determine whether they still qualify for food stamps are deleted, making it easier for states simply to terminate food stamp assistance. The proposal would lead to the denial of food stamps to thousands of citizen children and eligible immigrants by counting income in their household that is currently excluded. While a small number of the proposed rules implement provisions of the 1996 federal welfare law, most go beyond that scope and are not required by law. Children would be among those most severely affected by these unfortunate proposals. The proposed rules contain some good changes too; for instance, making it easier for families with reliable vehicles to qualify for food stamp aid.

Because the consequences of these proposals are so far-reaching, CDF is working cooperatively with organizations such as the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, America's Second Harvest, and Catholic Charities to encourage a large volume of comments. Any individual can and should send such comments; it is especially important that those who work with low-income families weigh in. If your congregation provides emergency food, or if you work with other emergency food providers, your comments will also be especially useful.

Since the 1996 welfare law's passage, the food stamp caseload is down 30 percent - far more than the reduction in poverty during that period. Families leaving TANF far too often lose food stamps, even though most remain eligible. We need to eliminate bureaucratic hassles that keep working poor families, including legal immigrants and their citizen children, from receiving help. The Clinton Administration has recognized this: last July, the Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service put out helpful guidance to states encouraging them to make applications and renewal of eligibility easier for working families leaving TANF. The new proposed rules run dangerously counter to these good ideas. That is why your comments are so important.

Commenting is fast and easy!

The Children's Defense Fund will provide sample comments on its website ( by Wednesday, April 26. We encourage you to cut and paste some or all of these comments in a letter you can send by e-mail or fax to the Department of Agriculture. If you work serving low-income people, if you are associated with organizations that do, or if you are a low-income person yourself, we suggest that you add a few sentences at the beginning mentioning your involvement and stating your concern that these rules would reduce access to food stamps by the families you serve (or reduce your own access), and/or your concern that your organization/agency/congregation would be faced with still higher surges of demand for emergency help. We will give full instructions for sending comments on the website, as well as a reminder e-mail when the sample comments are posted to our website.

For information and sample comments from FRAC, please contact Daria Thomas at


If enough voices are heard, there is a good chance that the Clinton Administration will recognize the adverse impact of the proposed rules and revise them.

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