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L.A. County Creates Unit To Protect Food Stamp Funding From Trump Budget Cuts

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The proposed 2018 budget released by President Trump on Tuesday seeks to cut $191 billion from food assistance programs nationwide over 10 years, but the L.A. County Board of Supervisors is working on a plan to protect federal funding for the state's CalFresh food stamp program. Supervisors Hilda Solis, Janice Hahn and Sheila Kuehl voted on Tuesday to create a new unit within the county's Department of Public Social Services to boost enrollment in CalFresh, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.

L.A. County's participation rate in CalFresh, the California branch of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is currently 66% among eligible persons. This figure is among the lowest in the state, and the program could lose $1.8 billion in federal funding if there isn't 100% enrollment among L.A. County residents. Getting more eligible residents enrolled in CalFresh would also ease the burden placed on local food-assistance initiatives like the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, who estimate that approximately 1.4 million L.A. County residents live with "food insecurity", or do not know where their next meal will come from.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, who oversees L.A.'s First District, expressed hopes that the new Department of Social Services unit will encourage Los Angeles County immigrants eligible for CalFresh to take advantage of the program—she took to Twitter to reassure immigrants that enrolling in CalFresh would not lead to deportation or affect their chances at gaining U.S. citizenship.

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Raising CalFresh enrollment in L.A. County would generate $2.1 billion in local economic activity through increased grocery sales and higher employment, according to a statement from Kuehl. Kuehl, along with Hahn, co-authored the motion to create the unit. "“There are families going hungry in LA County despite the fact that they qualify for help. CalFresh can make a world of difference for a family in need and we have to do a better job in LA County making sure our most vulnerable residents know that help is available,” Hahn said in a statement. Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Kathryn Barger were absent from the Board vote.

LAist reached out to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and the Department of Public Social services for comment on what types of initiatives the new unit would launch to increase CalFresh enrollment, but did not immediately hear back.