Donovan: In defense of food assistance — 3SquaresVT public comment period ends Sept. 23

Photo by Hunger Free Vermont
Anore Horton, executive director of Hunger Free Vermont, speaks against proposed cuts to 3SquaresVT at a press conference in South Burlington Sept. 11. From left, Attorney General T.J. Donovan; Horton; Assistant Attorney General Kristin Clouser, chief – Agency of Human Services Legal Division; and Assistant Attorney General Bessie Weiss, director, Human Services Legal Divi-sion.

Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced that his office will be submitting comments in opposition to the Trump ad-ministration’s proposal to cut food assistance for Vermonters. The announcement was made at a Sept. 11 press con-ference held in South Burlington at Hunger Free Vermont’s headquarters on Eastwood Drive.

Joining Donovan and his staff were Anore Horton, executive director of Hunger Free Vermont; John Sayles, chief ex-ecutive officer of the Vermont Foodbank; and Sen. Debbie Ingram, chair of the Advisory Council on Child Poverty and Strengthening Families. The group urged Vermonters to support 3SquaresVT, the state’s supplemental nutrition assis-tance program (SNAP), by submitting public comments before the Sept. 23 deadline.

“Every day, Vermonters are being forced to make tough choices to keep food on the table,” said Donovan. “Public benefit programs like 3SquaresVT provide Vermonters with a hand up – not a handout – while they work toward sus-tainable economic security for themselves and their families.”

According to Donovan’s office, if the Trump administration’s proposed change to “broad-based categorical eligibility” is enacted, thousands of Vermont families who rely on 3SquaresVT will be impacted.

Estimates from the Vermont Agency of Human Services suggest approximately 13,366 Vermonters, or 5,204 house-holds, are expected to lose benefits under the proposed change, resulting in an approximate $7.5 million loss in annual benefits for Vermonters. In addition, children in affected households may lose access to free meals at school.

“Eliminating a fundamental part of SNAP, which has been used by 42 states for over 20 years, will harm Vermonters and do nothing to solve hunger in our state or in our country,” said Horton. “We are asking every Vermonter to write a public comment today opposing this cruel proposed rule.”

3SquaresVT provided, on average, over 70,000 Vermonters with money to spend on food in grocery stores farmers markets each month.

“Without the support of SNAP – our country’s first line of defense against hunger – more people will need to rely on the charitable food system for help,” said Sayles. “And yet, food banks and food shelves will not be able to make up the difference. For each meal provided by Feeding America food banks across the country (like the Vermont Food-bank), SNAP provides nine meals. Private charity simply cannot compensate for the impact of these significant cuts to the program.”

The Attorney General’s office reported that Vermonters likely to be affected by the proposal are working families with children who rely on the program for food assistance and free meals at school. Research shows that food-insecure children have higher rates of poor health, higher rates of hospitalization and delays in cognitive development, among other learning issues.

“It is astonishing that the Trump administration would make such a proposal, especially after Congress considered and rejected it when revising the Farm Bill recently,” said Sen. Ingram. “Any reasonable and compassionate person should be able to see how devastating it will be to single moms, children and seniors who are already struggling to lose access to the basic necessity of food.”

Individuals, organizations, committees, coalitions and agencies wishing to submit public comments must do so by Sept. 23. For more information, including a link to the public comment portal, visit www.hungerfreevt.org/protect3squaresvt.

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