Santa Clara County Opposes Trump Administration’s Plan to Tighten Food Stamp Eligibility

As the Trump administration tries to change the way states determine food stamp eligibility, Silicon Valley leaders are fighting back.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted this week to formally oppose planned rule changes for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known in this state as CalFresh. Under the proposed rules, California would no longer have the ability to grant food subsidies to families whose incomes surpass the federal poverty line—even if their net income after basic expenses and the cost of living in Silicon Valley’s white-hot housing market makes them effectively penniless.

Without the flexibility of granting benefits under the so-called “categorical eligibility” standard, the county estimates that about 7,000 people would lose CalFresh benefits. That includes 1,850 seniors, 2,850 children and 2,300 adults. According to county Supervisor Susan Ellenberg’s referral to oppose the rule changes, as many as 169,000 families in this county experience hunger on a given day.

“Symptoms of food insecurity extend beyond hunger and malnutrition and have substantial impacts on health outcomes and school performance,” her memo reads. “Food assistance programs like SNAP are critical to reducing food insecurity and extending the resources of families, including underpaid workers, to manage other household expenses. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, CalFresh benefits help one in 11 California workers put food on the table.”

Another rule proposed by the federal government would make it harder to “cross-qualify” people for various programs, such as the free and discounted school lunches upon which about 2,000 local children depend. Currently, recipients of Social Security benefits automatically qualify for CalFresh, but the federal government wants to require eligibility checks for each distinct program, which would incur additional paperwork, lengthen processing times and cost local governments more money to administer.

Basically, the pending rules would complicate an already onerous bureaucratic process, according to Second Harvest of Silicon Valley Vice President Tracy Weatherby.

“California is not a huge utilizer of CalFresh,” she says. “We struggle to get enough people to sign up because it’s such a complicated process. This is just another attempt to prevent people from using the benefit program.”

If the changes go into effect, South Bay households receiving CalWorks welfare benefits will no longer become automatically eligible for CalFresh. And their children would no longer qualify for free and reduced-price school meals.

“What the president is proposing will literally take food off of our children’s plates,” Ellenberg said in a statement announcing the board vote on Tuesday. “As a county, it is our responsibility to be the safety net to our most vulnerable community members.”

The US Department of Agriculture, however, says that “categorical eligibility” requirements have become a loophole for people who say they need public benefits “when they clearly don’t.” It estimates that 4.1 percent of families currently using SNAP are 4.9 percent above the gross income limit. It also claims that the proposed changes will help families “move towards self-sufficiency.”

Weatherby says that’s doubtful.

“You don’t help people become self-sufficient by removing nutritional support,” she says. “People who are undernourished are not better at finding jobs.”

Now that the board of supes gave it the green light, County Counsel James Williams will send letters of opposition to the US Department of Agriculture and Congress. Meanwhile, Second Harvest is encouraging people to submit comments opposing the controversial rule-change proposal.

The protest against the national powers that be highlights the ongoing local effort to curb hunger in Silicon Valley, where sky-high housing costs leave little left over for many families to cover the bare necessities.

Now that people who receive Supplemental Security Income and State Supplementary Payments (SSI/SSP) are now eligible for Calfresh for the first time in 40 years, the county and Second Harvest have been aggressively pushing for more low-income adults and people with disabilities to sign up for the program.

The county is also launching a new benefits card that’s similar to a debit card for families on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides nutrition and breastfeeding support for impoverished mothers.

Nicholas Chan is a journalist who covers politics, culture and current events in Silicon Valley. Follow him on Twitter at @nicholaschanhk.


  1. California is filthy rich, just print money let the people heal themselves. Better yet tax food end get more money.

  2. > Santa Clara County Opposes Trump Administration’s Plan to Tighten Food Stamp Eligibility

    California has an obesity problem.

    It is amazing that all the big hearts with advanced degrees in compassion, and social work, and virtue signalling have NEVER noticed that there is a correlation between the number of people on food stamps and the rate of obesity among welfare and benefits recipients.

    Literally, killing people with kindness.

  3. i shop Walmart on Eastside and what i see very often – mothers w/ kids buying soda, cookies, chips, snacks and other junk that should be added to vaping as a health hazard. the obese mothers w/ obese kids load up carts of this stuff paying w/ their SNAP. What we are doing is creating an coming large scale epidemic of diabetes which of course will keep these unsuspecting people on the govt dole the rest of their lives and they will spend those lives plugged into dialysis machines like lab rats. But ones that can vote. Note these words – this crises is coming.

    One other minor thing. You will see the SNAP recipients never bring re-usable bags for their loads of junk. Why should they when the plastic Walmart bags are purchased w/ the SNAP benefits. Nice eco lesson for the kids.

    I hold nothing against people getting honest food help. But it should be honest food. Politicians won’t do anything – they want more dependent voters – even the life long sick ones plugged into machines.

    • No worries, they are going to get Free Medical Insurance (to take care of their diabetes) from you too, so all we be well.

    • Ms. Ellenberg and her snowflake cohorts would be better off promulgating rules prohibiting SNAP recipients from using that freebie to purchase the junk food that they so often buy for their obese selves and their obese kids.

  4. Big surprise. Our County never passes up an opportunity to take money away from those who earned it and give it away to those who whine for it.

  5. > According to county Supervisor Susan Ellenberg’s referral . . . .

    > “Symptoms of food insecurity extend beyond hunger and malnutrition and have substantial impacts on health outcomes and school performance,” blah blah blah.

    “Food insecurity” is part of the human condition. That’s why humans became hunter-gatherers. And then when that wasn’t good enough, smarter humans with bigger brains leaned how to be farmers and herders and make plans to avoid future food insecurity.

    “Food insecurity” is NOT solved by gasbag politicians who dream up schemes to take food from people who produce it and give it to people who breed, consume, and want to live in nice places.

    Humanity has made enormous progress in addressing “food insecurity”. Fourteen thousand years ago, ONE HUNDRED PERCENT OF HUMANITY experienced constant “food insecurity”. Thanks to the miracle of big brain thinking resulting in understanding of the complex processes of nuture, a sense of time, and the savvy to defer consumption and invest energy in future well-being, in other words, “capitalism”, ninety-nine percent of humans on the planet today survive “food insecurity” because of capitalist production.

    Susan Ellenberg is a primitive tribalist thinker, merely pointing out ways for foragers to continue their hunting and gathering among the offices and bureaucrats of the welfare state.

    She is enabling the primitive behaviors of people unequipped to survive in modern civilization, but worse and more cynical she is perpetuating the ethos of primitivism among the children of the unequipped.

  6. Only legal residents and U.S. citizens should be eligible for food stamps, otherwise you have 5 billion people that would love to come here.

  7. The thread on police use of force mentioned restoring trust in cops. I don’t trust anyone who uses mushy jwords like “food insecurity”

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