Nutritional Programs and Assistance
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) supports the state-federal partnership to provide nutrition assistance to those in need. State legislators are concerned about the vast numbers of hungry individuals, and particularly the severity of hunger among childhood and aging populations. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and Child Nutrition programs alleviate and prevent hunger and enable families to improve their health and be more productive at school and at work.
SNAP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program/Food Stamps
NCSL urges continued federal funding of the SNAP program at levels sufficient to provide assistance to all that are eligible or in need due to the rising cost of food. NCSL also urges the administration and Congress to continue to make SNAP and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grants more compatible through the broad-based categorical eligibility option. This is a policy option for states by which households may become categorically eligible for SNAP because they qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or state maintenance of effort-funded benefits. In times of economic hardship, SNAP, along with other nutrition assistance programs, offers a vital safety net for low-income Americans.
NCSL opposes proposals that would impose costly administrative burdens and un-funded mandates on state governments or remove state flexibility that is critical to cost-effective administration of SNAP.
NCSL supports U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiatives to provide administrative flexibility through the waiver process by allowing states to implement administrative efficiencies such as telephone interviews, utilize Combined Application projects, simplified application forms, the creation of mobile-friendly software for SNAP recipients, and develop partnerships with community stakeholder organizations to improve quality, efficiencies, and overall nutrition access. NCSL supports additional waivers that increase administrative flexibility during a public health emergency.
SNAP Benefits and Program Design
NCSL recommends that the administration and Congress incorporate the following issues regarding SNAP benefits and program access into future legislative and regulatory action:
- Elimination of the annually indexed caps on excess shelter deductions to allow families to deduct high shelter costs;
- Exclusion of the first $150 a month by a non-custodial parent paid as child support from consideration as income in determining the SNAP allotment;
- Elimination of the rules concerning the value of a vehicle that a recipient may own and still receive SNAP benefits;
- Federal support and technical assistance for state outreach;
- Enhancement and simplification of application and eligibility determination procedures through supporting Web-based screening tools, permitting seniors and the disabled to apply at Social Security offices, reduced length application forms, and allowing use of joint applications;
- Continuation of state options regarding child support cooperation as a condition of eligibility for SNAP. NCSL supports the elimination of the fee for SNAP recipients’ child support collection efforts as a further incentive toward child support enforcement participation.
- Continuation of state options to disqualify for SNAP eligible individuals who fail to cooperate with child support enforcement authorities or who are in arrears on child support obligation. NCSL supports this option and opposes changes that would mandate these actions;
- Permit the promotion and acceptance of SNAP at farmers’ markets and other non-grocery store, produce-oriented venues, for example: from a small farmer; and
- Continue to support current state options regarding categorical eligibility and "heat and eat.”
SNAP and Legal Immigrants
NCSL supports SNAP eligibility for legal immigrant children and families. NCSL commends USDA's outreach efforts to assist eligible legal immigrants, including their work to translate materials into more than 34 languages. NCSL continues to support restoring eligibility to the small number of legal immigrants who were not covered under previous restoration. NCSL urges the administration and Congress to include state lawmakers in making decisions that would alter the eligibility status for any category of immigrants legally present in the United States.
SNAP Employment and Training Program (SNAP E&T)
NCSL supports the objectives of self-sufficiency promoted by the SNAP Employment and Training program (SNAP E&T), and will work with the federal government toward that goal. NCSL urges the administration and Congress to allow states flexibility to create, fund, and integrate SNAP E&T programs with similar state programs, particularly TANF and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). NCSL also supports program simplification and coordination between TANF and SNAP.
In addition, NCSL appreciates the USDA's willingness to grant states waivers of the three-month time limit for non-working able-bodied adults without dependents in areas impacted by high unemployment and USDA's technical assistance to states.
SNAP Program Quality Control (QC)/Judicial Waiver
NCSL supports the original intent of quality control, which is to provide states with a management tool to identify problems in public assistance administration and to facilitate corrective actions. However, many problems in the current system have been documented, including statistical flaws and the levying of excessive financial penalties on states. NCSL strongly supports the move away from a system based on error rates to one that awards bonuses for accuracy. NCSL urges the federal government to improve systems related to appeals of waiver decisions and reinvestment of claims, including outcome measures of program goals.
NCSL supports efforts to focus on program measurement and evaluation through positive incentives and urges Congress to reexamine funding levels. State legislators urge the USDA to continue to settle QC claims through state reinvestment in program improvement.
Electronic Benefit Transfer and Automated Systems (EBT)
NCSL supports the current implementation of EBT systems and supports allowing cards to be used for multiple programs.
NCSL believes that states should be allowed to negotiate the terms of EBT with food marketers, farmers’ markets, and financial institutions. NCSL opposes preemption of state laws that govern financial institutions pertaining to a nationwide EBT system. As additional income support programs are added to EBT systems that are state-only or state-federally governed, the federal government must not preempt state benefits law.
NCSL also encourages the administration and Congress to continue initiatives around summer feeding and EBT to secure a permanent summer EBT program, including adding monthly funding to family’s EBT cards and including funding for state startup costs.
SNAP Program Flexibility and Waivers
NCSL believes that the federal waiver process should recognize state participation and need. States need flexibility for further innovation and state legislators prefer to have options rather than waivers for policy changes that are not in need of further evaluation. State legislators need to be included in the waiver process prior to a waiver being granted. Plan approval and the results of demonstration grants should be shared with state legislators.
NCSL supports the authority for states to use, at their option, contractors to support administrative and eligibility functions in SNAP. NCSL asks the federal government to remove barriers to this option so that states can meet surges in demand, address workforce shortages, align SNAP flexibility with other programs, and ensure the right benefits go to the right people at the right time.
Emergency Food Assistance and Commodity Distribution
NCSL urges Congress to fully fund The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) at its authorized level. NCSL believes that Congress should provide adequate administrative funds to facilitate the efficient distribution of food and should include sufficient safeguards to prevent program abuse. NCSL urges the USDA to make additional surplus commodities available to states, upon request, when additional surplus food becomes available. We also urge the USDA to provide administrative funding support for sorting, packaging, processing, and transporting donated food. NCSL supports federal programs that deliver commodities through farmers’ markets and the child nutrition commodity programs.
NCSL urges Congress to reauthorize legislation to continue and fully fund child nutrition programs. NCSL urges the USDA to emphasize the importance of nutritionally appropriate foods and avoiding those high in sugar, fat and sodium. NCSL also urges Congress to protect, strengthen and improve the child nutrition programs by building on the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 to ensure that children continue to have access to nutritious meals throughout the year.
NCSL urges Congress to invest in the ability and resources of states to provide access to healthy and affordable meals before, during and after school for all children, all year long and to ensure low-income children's access to and participation in child nutrition programs. NCSL supports accurate eligibility determination in federal programs, but urges Congress to ensure efforts to serve only eligible children do not deter program participation.
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
NCSL supports the WIC program and its objectives. NCSL encourages the administration and Congress to ensure flexibility for the time it takes to process and approve applications for WIC applicants and ensure continued financial support to maximize WIC coverage for women, infants and children in need.
NCSL supports congressional efforts to improve program administration by authorizing limited borrowing between fiscal years for the WIC program, and by requiring the timely apportionment of WIC funds to the states.
NCSL supports funding to allow technological improvements to WIC and to allow the implementation of WIC Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT). NCSL also urges Congress to increase the flexibility of WIC appointments through increased access to remote appointments and extended certification periods as well as to support equitable access to the WIC food package through modernization efforts that increase access to online ordering, online purchasing, and delivery.
School Breakfast and Lunch Programs
NCSL strongly supports the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program as critically important to the well-being and education of young children. NCSL supports USDA reimbursements to schools for free, reduced-price, and paid meals under the provisions of the school lunch and school breakfast programs.
NCSL supports current flexibility in the Community Eligibility Provision, which helps reduce paperwork for parents and schools with a high percentage of eligible students. NCSL urges Congress to expand the well-documented benefits of the Community Eligibility Provision, which allows schools to serve meals at no charge to all students if enough are identified as qualifying for other assistance programs, by lowering the minimum identified student percentage (ISP), increasing the ISP multiplier, expanding direct certification with Medicaid data nationwide, and supporting the improvement of direct certification systems.
NCSL urges the USDA to emphasize nutritionally appropriate foods. NCSL supports the USDA’s proposal to create a pilot program for school districts to provide more nutritious alternatives that would allow experimentation without risk of financial loss to those schools.
NCSL supports permanent authorization of the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children program. NCSL also supports making funding for the program mandatory, and expanding the reach of the program to kids eligible for free or reduced-price school meals in all states, tribal nations and localities in order to close the summer meals gap. NCSL urges Congress to permanently authorize the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer system, allowing authorities to quickly deliver increased nutritional aid during times of crisis.
Summer Food Service Program for Children
NCSL supports the federal Summer Food Service Program for Children and restoration of meal reimbursement rates that allow low-income children to receive a nutritious lunch in the summer. NCSL supports policies that will make it easier for non-profit community groups and public entities to sponsor the program and will allow the program to be available in more neighborhoods and rural areas. NCSL urges Congress to allow for more flexibility around where children are able to access and eat summer meals by allowing for non-congregate models in communities where summer meals sites are not available and by lowering the threshold required to operate sites open to all children.
Child and Adult Care Food Program
NCSL supports flexibility to allow seniors to transport uneaten food they receive while participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program. NCSL opposes the elimination or reduction of the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
NCSL strongly supports efforts to expand Child and Adult Care Food Program to older children in after-school programs, and to ensure that the program is available in more neighborhoods and rural areas. Additionally, NCSL supports state options to expand this program to evening meals in after-school programs.
Combating Childhood and Adult Obesity
NCSL supports federal efforts to find solutions for childhood and adult obesity without imposing mandates. NCSL urges Congress to fully fund these programs and supports a proposal to fund a pilot program for the states with the greatest incidence of childhood and adult obesity to develop policies and procedures to reduce obesity.
Nutritional Quality Measures for Older Adults
NCSL supports the quality measures used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to quantify health care processes, outcomes, patient perceptions, and systems that are associated with the ability to provide quality health care and/or that relate to “quality goals” for health care. CMS introduced four electronic clinical quality measures that would cover screening for malnutrition, assessment of those screened as at-risk for malnutrition, diagnosis of malnutrition, and creation of a nutrition care plan. NCSL urges CMS to adopt quality measures on malnutrition to heighten the importance of identification, evaluation, and treatment of malnutrition in the elderly.
NCSL also supports establishing malnutrition care as a measure of quality health care. NCSL urges the administration and Congress to support state efforts to reduce malnutrition in the elderly and heighten awareness of nutrition in elderly communities.