T he U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) requests comments on proposed changes to how utility expenses are calculated for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The Native Farm Bill Coalition is concerned these changes will impact SNAP benefits for tribal households that already pay higher utility costs.

These changes include:
  • Using national data to calculate low-income household utility expenditures for each state and adjusting annually based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
  • Capping the maximum per state SNAP utility allowance (Heating and Cooling Standard Utility Allowance) at the 80th percentile for low-income household expenses in each state.
  • Capping allowances for two utilities (Limited Utility Allowance) at 70% of the new state Heating and Cooling Standard Utility Allowance.
  • Capping allowances for one utility (Single Utility Allowance) at 35% of the new state Heating and Cooling Standard Utility Allowance.
  • No longer accounting for differences in household utility expenses within states based on geographic area or household size when determining SNAP utility allowances.
  • Replacing the telephone utility allowance with a telecommunications standard which includes low-cost plans for telephone and basic internet service.

FNS says it received no feedback from tribes on how this rule impacts Native households and their ability to access food. The Native Farm Bill Coalition encourages tribes and other leaders to make their voices heard. To assist you in writing comments, please reference this template letter highlighting key issues with this rule and potential solutions. 

You can view the proposed rule and comment online here . Please submit your comments today or by Monday, December 2.