14 States Sue To Block Trump Plan To Cut Food Stamps For 700,000 People

Rachel Sandler Forbes Staff
Jan 16, 2020,5:11 pm

Topline: Fourteen states, Washington D.C. and New York City sued to block a Trump administration rule on Thursday that would push 700,000 people off food stamps in the latest standoff between Trump and the blue states.

  • The states allege that the new food stamp guidelines will harm their residents’ health, raise homelessness and healthcare costs for states and contradict what the architects of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program intended.
  • The suit, which was filed against against the Department of Agriculture and Secretary Sonny Perdue, claims that the government failed to give the public enough time to comment on a final version of the plan, violating the federal rulemaking process.
  • A coalition of Democratic state attorneys general joined the suit, including those of New York, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington D.C. and Virginia.
  • The USDA did not immediately respond to request for comment from Forbes.

Key background: The Trump administration plan would make it harder for states to get exemptions from a work requirement rule limiting adults to three months of food stamps within a three-year period unless they work or are in a work training program for at least 20 hours per week. States have often gotten waivers from the time-limit rule in areas lacking enough jobs, but the new rule would raise the minimum unemployment rate in waived counties to 6%. Before, the USDA said, counties receiving waivers had unemployment rates as low as 2.5%.

The rule would apply only to able-bodied adults without dependents, so families, the elderly, pregnant women and disabled people are excluded from the rule change.

Chief critics: When announcing the rule, Perdue said tightening work requirements was necessary to encourage states to prioritize “self-sufficiency” at a time when the unemployment rate is lower than it was a decade ago. “This rule lays the groundwork for the expectation that able-bodied Americans reenter the workforce where there are currently more job openings than people to fill them,” he said at the time.

But the states argue in the lawsuit that countywide unemployment data is not always an accurate depiction of real-world labor conditions. 

“A local area with an overall 5.8% unemployment rate can have an African American unemployment rate closer to 10%, as well as an unemployment rate around 10% for people of all races who are age 25 or over who lack a high school diploma or GED,”  the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said in a December statement.

Crucial quote: “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,” New York State Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.

Big number: 36 million people in the U.S. receive some form of SNAP benefits, which means that nearly 2% of all food stamp beneficiaries would lose access under the new rule.


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