BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey today joined a lawsuit opposing the Trump Administration’s proposed restrictions on the receipt of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits that would take away food assistance from nearly 700,000 Americans.
The complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, challenges a recently finalized United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that would limit states’ ability to extend certain SNAP benefits beyond a three-month period.
A coalition of 15 attorneys general and the City of New York argues in their complaint that the rule directly undermines Congress’s intent for the program, and that the USDA violated the federal rulemaking process. They also allege that the rule would impose significant regulatory burdens on the states and harm states’ residents and economies.
“These rules will prevent people from getting food they need and force many to make incredibly difficult financial choices,” said AG Healey. “We are suing to protect our residents and prevent these cruel restrictions from going into effect.”
Currently, SNAP provides food assistance to unemployed adults who are not disabled or raising children, known as “able-bodied adults without dependents” (ABAWDs), for a three-month period. The law allows a state to acquire a waiver of the ABAWD time limit if it presents data demonstrating that a certain geographic area lacks sufficient jobs for ABAWDs. The law also permits a limited number of one-month exemptions for individuals who would otherwise lose benefits under the time limit, and states are allowed to carry over unused exemptions to safeguard against sudden economic downturns.
In the lawsuit, the coalition collectively argues that the new rule contravenes the law and congressional intent by disallowing waivers based on a state’s showing that a certain geographic area offers jobs for ABAWDs. Major aspects of the rule mirror proposed changes that Congress explicitly rejected in 2018. The coalition argues that these rules violate the federal rulemaking process because they were made without adequate justification and have changed significantly since they were first proposed. For SNAP recipients, losing these benefits will prevent many from accessing food, increasing the risk of malnutrition and other negative health effects. As USDA concedes in the rule, these impacts will be most concentrated among lower-income communities of color.
This lawsuit, led by the District of Columbia and New York, is joined by the attorneys general of Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and the City of New York.
In the Massachusetts AG’s Office, this matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Angela Brooks, Director of AG Healey’s Child and Youth Protection Unit, and Assistant Attorney General Widmaier Charles of AG Healey’s Civil Rights Division.