RESULTS responds to White House proposals that threaten low-income families

November 5, 2020
by Dorothy Monza, Advocacy Associate, Alexa Angelo, 2020 Emerson National Hunger Fellow, Mackenzie Aime, 2019 Emerson National Hunger Fellow, and Meredith Dodson, Director of U.S. Poverty Campaigns

The White House has released a series of harmful proposed rules that target low-income people and disproportionately harm communities of color. In addition to the important legislative advocacy our grassroots advocates are engaged in, RESULTS has submitted several comments on these proposed rule changes. We wanted to share background on how we engage as an organization on these proposed changes to anti-poverty programs.

Proposed rules do not require congressional approval and are a key way presidential administrations can change the execution of a program. Sometimes these rules create positive changes. Yet, the Trump administration has used the rule making to sidestep Congress and enforce its own priorities even after Congress passed laws rejecting those priorities.1 Many of the proposed rules threaten key anti-poverty programs and immigrant families.

During the public comment period individuals, organizations, and others can submit comments that support, object to, or question the components of the proposal. The rule making process typically includes drafted rules published for public comment, a review period, and publication of the finalized rule.Typically, these comments must be addressed before the administration moves forward with a rule change. This means that any questions about the impact of the proposed rule are supposed to be accounted for before publicizing the final rule. However, the process of taking comments into account to the fullest extent does not always occur.

With the administration proposing rules that could impact anti-poverty programs on a regular basis, we keep our grassroots network informed about ways to comment via our Weekly Updates while emphasizing critical grassroots engagement with members of Congress. RESULTS has submitted comments on a variety of proposed changes, and at times, mobilized our grassroots network to sound the alarm and urge others to comment as well. 

See below for a list of the comment letters RESULTS has submitted to protect anti-poverty programs and their participants (click on the bold titles below to see RESULTS’ comments).

  • Changes to the Affidavit of Support policy will deter immigrants and U.S citizens from using public benefits they are eligible for, cause confusion, delays, and fear, and make it more difficult for people to receive green cards and ultimately citizenship.  A sponsor is a person, usually a family member, who helps an immigrant become a lawful permanent resident. They must sign a contract called an “Affidavit of Support” to take financial responsibility for applicant who is coming to the United States and show that the immigrant they are sponsoring is not likely to become a “public charge.” This rule would make it harder to meet the income requirement to be a sponsor and penalize sponsors if they have used public benefits – including Medicaid, CHIP, SNAP, SSI, and TANF—within 3 years. This would deter both immigrants and U.S. citizens from using benefits if they hope to sponsor a family member in the future. Means-tested public benefits like SNAP promote long-term health and wellbeing, especially for children. We should be supporting people who need access to anti-poverty assistance to do so, not deterring access.
  • Changes to “public charge” threaten immigrant families in the U.S. who are struggling to make ends meet. Under the rule, a person’s immigration status would effectively be held ransom if they use public benefits such as SNAP and Medicaid. That means mothers and fathers would be punished for getting help to feed their families, cover medical costs, or find safe and affordable housing. In 2018 RESULTS volunteers generated 53 media pieces sounding the alarm about this proposal, RESULTS joined other housing and nutrition advocates in submitting an amicus brief opposing these changes, and multiple federal courts blocked President Trump’s Public Charge regulation from going into effect on October 15, 2019. Families should continue to use the services for which you are eligible. 03/10/21 UPDATE: The Trump Administration’s 2019 public charge rule is now blocked nationwide! The Department of Justice (DOJ) decided to stop defending the regulations and courts dismissed all pending appeals. This comes days after nearly 150 organizations, including RESULTS, sent an urgent letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) urging them to withdraw all appeals. More work is needed to undo the harm caused by this rule, but this is a big win—particularly for immigrants, their families, and other communities negatively affected by the public charge rule.
  • Limiting SNAP (formerly food stamps) for adults without children in the home. Right now, these “ABAWDs” (able-bodied adults without dependents) must consistently work at least 20 hours per week or have their SNAP benefits limited to three months out of every three years. However, states can request waivers from the work requirement in times of economic distress and high unemployment. Despite broad public pushback, on December 4, 2019, the Trump Administration announced it was moving forward with a new rule to cut SNAP that would restrict states’ ability to get those waivers – despite the overwhelming passage of a bipartisan Farm Bill that rejected this policy.  The rule could mean 688,000 people could lose SNAP benefits and is scheduled to start in April 2020, but is expected to be challenged in court. 3/14/20 UPDATE: The proposed rule change has been blocked by a federal judge. In her ruling, the judge noted that flexibility to address nutritional needs is particularly essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rule is blocked from taking effect pending the outcome of a lawsuit from 19 states plus the District of Columbia and New York City.
  • Changes to SNAP Categorical Eligibility provisions after the roll out of a new proposed rule from the Trump Administration. The rule change is projected to take away Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) benefits from more than 3 million people, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This rule removes the broad-based categorical eligibility, which allows people to qualify for SNAP if they have applied for other anti-poverty programs and allows states to opt-out of asset limits, encouraging work and savings among low-income households. Instead of taking these resources away, especially from people who have disabilities or the seniors, the administration should focus on helping those who need assistance with their basic needs. RESULTS submitted additional comments on the SNAP Categorical Eligibility Rule and School Meals on November 1, 2019, based on new data about the impact of this proposal on access to school meals.
  • SNAP Standardization of State Heating and Cooling Standard Utility Allowances (SUA) would cut program benefits by a total of $4.5 billion over five years by changing how states take households’ utility costs into account in determining the amount of SNAP benefits for which they qualify. This would exacerbate the struggles many low-income people have paying for costs of both food and utilities. The deadline for submitting comments is December 2, 2019, and you can use FRAC’s comment portal to weigh in.
  • Protections for consumers against predatory short-term lending would be rolled back if the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new proposed rule is implemented. This rule would halt a multi-year proposed rule to protect consumers from moving forward. The original proposed rule would have created consumer protections by requiring short-term loan companies to check a borrower’s ability to repay the loan (this is a loan industry standard, notably absent) before approving the loan. The Trump administration’s proposed rule hopes to roll back this protection. Due to a yawning racial wealth divide, this proposal will likely harm communities of color disproportionately. 3
  • Proposed changes to the poverty line would alter how the government measures poverty. This change has the potential to artificially make individuals ineligible for government assistance programs, taking away benefits from low-income families including health care, food assistance, and other anti-poverty programs that help families provide for their basic needs. This proposed rule would also make poverty measurements less accurate, leading to further hardship for millions of low-income Americans.  RESULTS had previously submitted an initial comment expressing concern on a practical poverty line measure found here.
  • Eliminating the ability for low-income “mixed status families” participating in federal housing programs to live under the same roof. In June, HUD released a proposed rule on mixed status families. Currently HUD allows households with eligible and ineligible members to live together. However, HUD only provides assistance to eligible members within a household. This proposed rule would prohibit mixed status families from receiving any housing assistance if there are any ineligible family members in the household and requires applicants and those currently receiving assistance to provide tangible proof of citizenship. This rule would impact over 100,000 people, forcing households to make the impossible decision between splitting up their family of facing eviction. If this rule is enacted it could: force 55,000 citizen children into eviction, cause substantial administrative cost, and decrease the quality and number of households receiving housing assistance.
  • Changing the Disparate Impact Fair Housing Standards, opposing the Trump Administration rule that would make it easier for landlords, financial institutions and others to discriminate based on race, sex, national origin, disability, and other protected classes.
  • Undermining the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, opposing the Trump Administration rule that would reverse efforts to undo historic housing discrimination and segregation and address current housing inequities. See the Fight for Housing Justice website for tools to comment before the March 2020 deadline.

RESULTS volunteer advocates are doing amazing work engaging members of Congress, addressing the affordable housing crisis and other issues, and playing a unique role in communities by building the political will to end poverty. RESULTS will continue to respond strategically as an organization to proposed changes that could harm low-income communities, and provide resources for those in our network who also want to comment on the administration’s proposals.

Additional Sources:

  1. Booker, B., “Trump Signs Farm Bill, Backs Rule Sidestepping Congress On More Work for Food Stamps.” National Public Radio. 2019.
  2. Raso, C., “Where and Why has Agency Rulemaking Declined Under Trump?” Brookings Institution. 2018.
  3. Chopra, A. and Nieves, E., “Two Years After Its Finalized Rule to Curb Predatory Lending, the CFPB Now Wants to Roll Them Back.” Prosperity Now. 2019.

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