FILE - School Lunch cafeteria

Students at Madison Crossing Elementary School in Canton, Miss., eat lunch in the school's cafeteria in this August 2019 file photo.

House Democrats are misrepresenting a report published by the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) claims.

Democrats maintain the USDA’s newly posted analysis of the impact of a new rule proposed by the Trump Administration to reduce fraud and abuse would cut as many as 982,000 children from being directly certified for free school meals based on their family's participation in SNAP.

The analysis is roughly double that of previous predictions made by USDA officials when the rule change was first proposed in July, Democrats say.

The rule eliminates food stamp eligibility loopholes and standardizes broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE) guidelines.

The change is anticipated to cut 3.1 million recipients from the program, the USDA says, and save taxpayers $2.5 billion every year.

"After waiting months for this analysis, we now have learned that this rule will be even worse for students and families than we originally understood," said Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., chairwoman of the House Education and Labor Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee.

Bonamici and other House Democrats claim that nearly one million school children will no longer be automatically eligible for free meals at school under the proposed rule change.

Democratic governors of several states – including Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania – also sent a letter to the Trump administration formally opposing the new rule.

The FGA argues the Democrats’ “argument is an egregious misrepresentation.”

According to the USDA report, the number published refers to those who would lose their automatic eligibility through BBCE, which allows states to work around SNAP's income and wealth limits stipulated for eligibility.

Currently, 43 states allow residents to automatically become eligible for food stamps through SNAP if they receive benefits through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

The rule change now requires TANF recipients to pass a review of their income and assets to determine whether they are eligible to receive SNAP benefits.

The USDA analysis states that roughly 45 percent of the 982,000 children who could lose automatic eligibility, or 445,000, would still be eligible for free in-school meals, and 51 percent, or 497,000, would still be eligible for reduced price meals.

In both cases, households would need to fill out additional paperwork, according to the guidelines.

According to the report, 96.9 percent of schoolchildren will still qualify for free lunch.

"Democrats are misrepresenting the facts in an effort to derail a rule that, in reality, achieves the shared goal of protecting the integrity of the food stamp program," said Sam Adolphsen, FGA policy director. "Only families with incomes above the federal guidelines would lose eligibility for free and reduced-price lunches.

According to FGA research, even fewer would be impacted by the reform, less than one percent, will lose access to free or reduced-price lunches.

“For too long, this loophole has been used to effectively bypass important eligibility guidelines. Too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a prepared statement. “The American people expect their government to be fair, efficient, and to have integrity – just as they do in their own homes, businesses and communities. That is why we are changing the rules, preventing abuse of a critical safety net system, so those who need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it.”