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14 states, NYC, DC sue USDA over SNAP

USDA rule changes takes effect April 1, 2020. Suit asks court to prevent law from taking effect.

A coalition of 14 states, the District of Columbia and New York City are suing the Trump administration over a recent rule change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, ABC News reports. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine are leading the coalition, arguing that the "rule directly undermines Congress' intent for SNAP and that the USDA violated the federal rulemaking process."

The rule mandates stricter work requirements for SNAP eligibility. It's expected that about 700,000 people will lose their SNAP benefits when it goes into effect April 1.

What governments are suing USDA?

District of Columbia, New York, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and New York City.

What are attorneys general saying about their reason to join the suit?

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and other attorneys general say the rule would burden states with new regulations and harm their residents and economies, according to the Star Tribune. They want the court to deem it "unlawful" and prevent it from taking effect.

About 6,000 Minnesotans would lose their benefits if the state is no longer permitted to carry over unused exemptions, the state Department of Human Services estimates. If the new rules take effect, these changes could cost the state at least $500,000.

“The Trump administration’s latest cut to food assistance puts benefits for more than 200 Vermont households at risk,” Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan told the Vermont Business Magazine.

“The federal government’s latest assault on vulnerable individuals is cruel to its core,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James in a New York Daily News post. “Denying access to vital SNAP benefits would only push hundreds of thousands of already vulnerable Americans into greater economic uncertainty. In so doing, states will have to grapple with rising healthcare and homelessness costs that will result from this shortsighted and ill-conceived policy.”

The new guidelines would cut off as many as 50,000 food stamp recipients in New York City and cost the city's economy more than $100 million.

What is the current rule?

There is a three-month time limit on SNAP benefits for unemployed individuals aged 18 to 49 who are not disabled or caring for children, but those limits can be waived based on economic hardships.

Why change the rule?

Government must examine federal policies and programs to ensure that they are consistent with principles that are central to the American spirit—work, free enterprise, and safeguarding human and economic resources, according to a post on USDA's Food and Nutrition Service website.

Are there other lawsuits too?

Bread for the City, a direct-service organization in Washington, D.C., has filed a suit.

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