(CNN) — Rep. Bobby Scott says the US Department of Agriculture concealed data showing that its recent proposed changes to the food stamp program could result in more than 500,000 low-income students losing free meals.
In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Scott, a Virginia Democrat who’s the chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, writes that the impact on school meal eligibility was not included in the Trump administration’s formal proposal revising who qualifies for the food stamp program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Scott writes that “the proposed rule will impact not only SNAP eligibility but will also affect children’s eligibility for school meal programs.” The program, Scott noted, “allows schools to provide free meals to all students in high-poverty communities.”
The congressman writes that his committee’s staff learned about the impact on school lunches in a phone briefing with USDA staff and requested that the department revise its proposal to include the estimate and restart the 60-day comment period.
He notes the USDA is required by law to include “relevant scientific and technical findings” in proposed rules and says the effect on school meals is an “important technical finding that must be made public.”
CNN has reached out to USDA for comment.
The proposed rule, released last week, could end up stripping more than 3 million people of their food stamp benefits. It would curtail so-called broad-based categorical eligibility, which makes it easier for Americans with somewhat higher incomes and more savings to participate in the food stamp program. Some 38 million Americans receive food stamps.
Separately, the administration wants to require more poor people to work for SNAP benefits, and it is looking to change the way the poverty threshold is calculated, a move that could strip many low-income residents of their federal benefits over time.