The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a proposed rule on Friday aimed at restricting the ability of government officials to recruit or pressure people to apply for federal food stamp benefits.
The rule is the result of the 2014 Farm Bill, which included language saying government agents have to let people decide themselves whether to apply for food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. That language was included after Republicans complained that benefits were being promoted on TV and radio, and were also being promoted in Mexico under a bilateral deal that existed during the Bush administration.
"Outreach activities designed to pressure or persuade a person to apply for benefits are not allowed," USDA said about the rule. Under the proposed language, USDA and state officials that get federal funding would be allowed to inform people about how SNAP works, and dispel misunderstandings they might have about the program.
But officials wouldn't be able to pursue people who aren't interested, and wouldn't be able to promise any side benefit for people who sign up.