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Student advocacy coalition petitions U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove interview requirement for SNAP enrollment

December 11, 2023 

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Student advocacy coalition petitions U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove interview requirement for SNAP enrollment

Removing interview requirement would allow more eligible applicants, including college students, to access federal funding for basic needs

Today, Student Defense — along with the Center for Law and Social Policy,  the California Student Aid Commission, California Competes, the Hope Center at Temple University, the Institute for College Access & Success, and Higher Learning Advocates — filed a Section 553(e) rulemaking petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture asking the agency to lift the interview requirement for eligible Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) applicants to receive benefits. 

A 2021 review of enrollment data in California found that 31% of SNAP applicants in Los Angeles County were denied benefits due to missing their interview, compared to just 6% who were denied for failing to meet eligibility requirements. Missed-interview denials were even higher among working families and college applicants, affecting as many as 40% of otherwise eligible applicants, the study found. A 2018 Government Accountability Office report found that only 43% of potentially eligible students who were at risk of food insecurity collected SNAP benefits in 2016.

“Getting a college degree is hard enough without having to worry about where your next meal is going to come from. We hear all too often about students who struggle to graduate or stop their studies entirely because they can’t meet basic needs like food, housing and childcare,” said Student Defense President Aaron Ament. 

“The interview requirement is an unnecessary burden that hurts eligible applicants, and there’s nothing stopping the Department of Agriculture from eliminating it,” said Student Defense Legal Fellow Tyler Ritchie.

Interviews are not mandated by the federal statute governing the SNAP program, and the current regulatory requirement is an outdated bureaucratic hurdle, the petition says. A July 2023 report from the Executive Office of the President called for increased efficiency and burden reduction to increase access to federal programs and services, underscoring the need to remove this barrier to access.

Since its founding, Student Defense has worked to remove barriers that prevent students from accessing benefits. In April 2021, the organization filed a rulemaking petition calling for the Department of Education to automatically discharge student loan debts for eligible borrowers who were deemed totally and permanently disabled by the Social Security Administration. In August 2021, the Department announced $5.8 billion in automatic TPD relief to 323,000 borrowers through the newly-implemented data-sharing program. According to data released by the Department, over 419,000 people have received $10.5 billion in discharges since the process was automated. 

A full copy of the petition can be found here.