L.A. County Board Opposes Restrictions on Eligibility for Food Stamps

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted today to oppose two proposed federal rule changes that would limit access to subsidized housing and eligibility for food stamps.

Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended that the board file or join litigation against the Department of Housing and Urban Development to fight one rule, proposed in May, that would deny subsidized housing to households with one or more undocumented family members.

``This proposed HUD rule is a direct attack on vulnerable immigrant families who work hard to make ends meet, but need access to affordable housing to survive,'' Solis said. ``(It) would break up families and cause thousands to lose their homes, exacerbating our region's homelessness crisis.''

Nationally, more than 55,000 children who are either U.S. citizens or legal residents are part of families who would lose access to subsidized housing, according to HUD estimates.

Nearly one-third of households in public housing in Los Angeles are ``mixed-status'' -- meaning that they include some residents who are eligible and others who are ineligible for subsidies -- and roughly 11,500 residents would be forced to leave their homes under the proposed rule, according to Solis.

Under current rules, housing subsidies are prorated to take into account any ineligible household members.

``This proposed regulation undermines HUD's longstanding purpose and mission. Simply put, it is un-American,'' Solis said. ``This proposal lacks any sense of morality and decency, and we will do everything in our power to fight this injustice.''

Administration officials say that offering subsidies only to eligible residents could open opportunities for citizens facing long waiting lists for public housing.

``We are putting America's most vulnerable first,'' HUD Secretary Ben Carson, said in an April statement, before the proposed rule change was published. ``Our nation faces affordable housing challenges, and hundreds of thousands of citizens are waiting for many years on wait lists to get housing assistance.''

The Board of Supervisors separately voted to send a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the county's legislative advocates to express its opposition to a proposed change in the way that eligibility for food stamps is calculated.

The Trump administration has recommended lowering the deduction that households can claim for utilities expense when calculating their income eligibility for food assistance. The change is estimated to save $4.5 billion over five years.

The USDA estimates that approximately 19% of households will see a decrease in their benefits, while another 16% would see an increase. An estimated 8,000 households would lose eligibility, according to a USDA analysis.

USDA officials say it is a matter of fairness and modernizing a patchwork of state approaches to calculate utility costs for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, which are know as CalFresh in California.

``Americans have every right to expect a program like SNAP to operate fairly and consistently across the country,'' Perdue said in a statement earlier this month announcing the proposal. ``Utility costs vary across the country, but the great discrepancies we see in SNAP allowances mean that folks living a few miles apart across state lines may see a big difference in their benefit amounts. We are working to improve integrity and fairness in our assistance programs.''

In Los Angeles County, about 1.1 million residents, including over a half-million children, rely on CalFresh for basic nutrition assistance.

``Sadly, food insecurity touches every part of American society: seniors, working people, and children and youth,'' Solis said. ``L.A. County will not stand idly by as the federal administration tries to take food off of the table.''

The board also directed county counsel to develop recommendations about filing or joining a lawsuit related to the food assistance rule change.

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