Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have filed a federal lawsuit to prevent the Trump administration from cutting off nearly 700,000 Americans from participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) under new, more restrictive guidelines they have proposed that will take effect later this year.
The lawsuit filed by the state attorneys general seeks a preliminary injunction to prevent the rule from going into effect on April 1, 2020.
The lawsuit challenges a U.S. Department of Agriculture rule that would limit states’ ability to extend SNAP or Food Stamp benefits. The changes propose a three-month time limit for SNAP benefits for jobless individuals 18 to 49 who are not disabled or raising children.
In addition, the coalition charges that the rule undermines Congress’ intent for SNAP and that the USDA violated the federal rule-making process.
New York, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and the District of Columbia are coalition members.
The states sued the United States Department of Agriculture and George Perdue III, the department’s secretary, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
On July 24, the Trump administration proposed changing the way states calculate who is eligible to receive SNAP benefits.
The federal government pays the full cost of SNAP benefits but shares the cost of administering it on a 50-50 basis. According to the Department of Agriculture’s proposed rule, people with a gross income of $16,000 or with assets of more than $2,500, would no longer qualify for SNAP benefits.
SNAP benefits provide the largest nutritional safety net, feeding 37 million Americans. People who are SNAP eligible receive $127 or about $1.39 per meal in SNAP benefits.
Nearly 9 million African Americans receive food stamps each month, which is 25 percent of the black population, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a D.C.-based progressive think tank that analyzes federal and state budget policies.
“Denying access to vital SNAP benefits would only push hundreds of thousands of already vulnerable Americans into greater economic uncertainty,” said New York State’s Attorney General Letitia James.
The states argued that the Trump administration’s proposed changes:
- Contradicts statutory language and Congress’s intent for the food-stamp program
- Raises health care and homeless costs while lowering economic activity in the states
- Amends the law for arbitrary and capricious reasons
- Violates the federal rule-making process
The SNAP benefits program was established in 1964. Congress amended the program in 1996 to encourage greater workforce participation among recipients.