Illinois Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin and Illinois Representatives Cheri Bustos Darin LaHood, and Rodney Davis Wednesday led the bipartisan Illinois Congressional Delegation in signing a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue opposing the Department’s administrative efforts to end Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for a group of supportive living facilities (SLFs) in Illinois that serve 8,000 low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities.
According to a press release, the members criticized the USDA’s plan to terminate SNAP benefits for vulnerable seniors in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite legislative action and prior commitments in Congressional testimony from the USDA to preserve SNAP benefits for this group, and 20 years of USDA approval for this arrangement that helps keep low-income seniors out of more institutional nursing home settings.
The move will effect seniors at Evergreen Place in Beardstown, The Pointe in Jacksonville, Jerseyville Estates, three locations in Springfield and one in Quincy. In all, it effects supportive living facilities in 71 counties in Illinois.
The members, in their letter, cite recent efforts by the USDA to deny and revoke SNAP participation from these Illinois facilities, despite provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill and Fiscal Year 2020 Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill that protect the residents and SNAP participation of SLFs.
Illinois’s SLF program was created in 1997 through a state law designed to be an alternative to institutional nursing settings for low-income seniors and persons with disabilities under Medicaid. For more than 20 years, the Illinois’s SLF program has been a nationally leading model in promoting affordable, independent-living options, and has relied upon a federal Medicaid waiver to serve this population.
The USDA has threatened to end the program despite no findings of fraud or misuse of the SNAP benefits and despite Illinois’ SLFs comprising a fraction of a percentage point of the SNAP program. A full text of the letter can be found on Senator Durbin’s webpage.