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SCG Opposes the Proposed Changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Publication date: 
Tuesday, October 8, 2019

You may have caught last week’s Cal Matters’ article about the immense demand facing our food banks in the region. In Los Angeles, our regional food bank serves 7.1 million people annually, of whom 12 percent are older adults and 24 percent are children. Philanthropy has played a crucial role in supporting our regional food banks, making $2.1 million in grants to 21 organizations in 2017. However, with growing economic insecurity facing working families, philanthropy alone cannot fight hunger in our communities. Crucial social safety benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) – known as CalFresh in our state – play an instrumental role in making sure that families receive adequate nutrition. For many, however, access to food assistance is under threat, and philanthropy alone cannot meet these challenges: that’s where philanthropy’s role as a civic institution weighing in on public policy matters.

Southern California Grantmakers opposed the proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility criteria that would take away vital food benefits from 230,000 Californians. As a philanthropic serving organization amplifying the work of our members, we organized SCG members who fund our regional food banks to submit public comments, arguing that philanthropy cannot replace the scope and scale of vital anti-hunger services. We submitted our public comment to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) alongside SCG members such as the Archstone Foundation, The California Community Foundation, The California Wellness Foundation, The Eisner Foundation, First 5 LA, S. Mark Taper Foundation, and United Ways of California. You can view the letters here.

The proposed taking of food assistance from people earning just above the federal poverty line, between about $33,000 to $50,000 for a family of four, in a high cost state like California will put more people at risk of hunger, and more reliant on our regional food banks. Taking action as a part of the federal regulatory process through the submission of public comments is a crucial step that philanthropy can take. It is perfectly acceptable under IRS rules for all types of foundations, including private family foundations, to engage in such deliberations without affecting your tax-exempt status.

Does it really make a difference? Does an act of submitting a letter really make change? Yes! It may not move within the time frame of a grant cycle, but it is a crucial part of philanthropy’s role as a civic institution. When it comes to public comments to an agency, the agency reviews the comments and drafts a final rule that, by law, must respond to comments raised during this period. Failure to address such comments may open the agency to litigation. This provides the basis for nonprofit partners to pursue legal advocacy – delay, slow, or avert implementation of harmful rules.

At SCG, our mission is to champion effective philanthropy and advance our members’ collaborative efforts. Public policy is a crucial instrument in both, and we’re here to support you – in learning the rules, in preparing the materials, and in amplifying your voice. 

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