Fourteen states and New York City have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to challenge a new ruling that could cause thousands of Americans to lose food stamp benefits.
The ruling, which will go into effect April 1, would call for more strict requirements to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Under the current rules, people who are childless and not disabled are required to work at least 20 hours a week for more than three months over a 36-month period to qualify for food stamps. However, states have been able to create waivers for areas that face high unemployment.
The new rule would prevent states from waiving those standards and restrict their use to those areas that have a 6% unemployment rate or higher.
The lawsuit argues that the new policy would raise healthcare and homelessness costs.
“The federal government’s latest assault on vulnerable individuals is cruel to its core,” said New York’s Attorney General Letitia James. “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.”
Many individuals have criticized the new policy since it was announced in December 2019.
Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow said the rule would negatively affect those who work in the tourism industry and others who have “unreliable hours like waiters and waitresses,” and New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer called the rule “heartless” and “cruel.”
Food Research & Action Center’s legal director Ellen Vollinger said, “The Food Research & Action Center applauds the efforts of states and cities to prevent USDA from sidestepping Congress, ignoring the great weight of public opinion, and taking food away from people who are struggling with unemployment and underemployment.”
Attorney General Dana Nessel said that the rule undermines Congress’ intent for the food stamp program and imposes extreme burdens on the states and residents.
“This proposed rule is entirely unacceptable and exhibits a blatant disregard for more than 10 percent of SNAP recipients in Michigan,” said Nessel. “I am horrified that the federal government feels comfortable not only in depriving adults of the essential assistance needed to put food on their tables, but also denying 58,743 Michigan children from eating lunch at school and consequently impacting their ability to learn.”