Attorney General Tong Applauds Successful Conclusion of Lawsuit Challenging Trump Administration's Food Assistance Cuts, Urges Congress to Expand Program
D.C. Circuit Dismisses Appeal of District Court Decision That Food Stamp Rule was Arbitrary, Poorly Reasoned, and Contrary to Congress’s Intent
(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong today applauded the federal court of appeals in D.C.’s dismissal of an appeal of a decision striking down the Trump Administration’s attempt to revoke food assistance for approximately 700,000 Americans. In January 2020, AG Tong joined a multistate coalition led by AG Karl A. Racine of the District of Columbia and AG Letitia James of New York in suing the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to challenge a new rule that would have severely limited states’ flexibility to provide food assistance to individuals struggling to find work. Siding with the coalition, Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia temporarily halted parts of the rule in March 2020, and in October she struck down the rule in its entirety, protecting access to SNAP benefits for Connecticut residents who rely on the program. DOJ initially appealed that decision. But on Monday, the Department asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to dismiss the appeal. The Court did so on Tuesday. As a result, Chief Judge Howell’s decision striking down the rule is final, and the cuts will not go into effect.
“Punishing job-seekers by limiting food assistance in the midst of a global pandemic was cruel and nonsensical, and the Biden/Harris Administration was right to drop this appeal. Now is the time to expand nutrition assistance and eliminate arbitrary bureaucratic barriers to aid,” said Attorney General Tong.
SNAP has served as the country’s primary response to hunger since 1977, and a critical part of federal and state efforts to help lift people out of poverty. The program provides access to nutrition for millions of Americans with limited incomes who would otherwise struggle with food insecurity.
A copy of the Court’s order dismissing the appeal is available here.
AG Tong joined the coalition led by the District of Columbia and New York. The coalition was also joined by the Attorneys General from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia, along with the City of New York. Several high-profile organizations filed briefs and declarations supporting the coalition’s arguments, including the U.S. House of Representatives, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Food Research and Action Center, and a broad coalition of legal aid and anti-poverty groups. The multistate action was consolidated with an action brought on behalf of private plaintiffs by the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia.
The Improving Access to Nutrition Act
Based on the expertise developed defending SNAP from the Trump Administration’s attempted cuts, AG Tong joined a letter to Congress signed by 17 states and New York City on Friday in support of the Improving Access to Nutrition Act. If enacted, the bill would eliminate limitations on the time period during which able-bodied adults without dependents can access benefits. The letter argues that those limitations have proven ineffective in encouraging employment and serve only to prevent those who cannot find work from accessing essential nutrition. The coalition further notes that the process for seeking waivers and exemptions from the time period due to lack of jobs in an area creates significant administrative burdens on states and that the data needed to show a lack of jobs is not always available. Finally, the letter notes that passage of the Improving Access to Nutrition Act would prevent future administrations from cruel attempts to cut off nutritional assistance.
A copy of the letter is available here.
AG Tong joined the multistate letter led by the District of Columbia. Attorneys General from Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin, as well as the Corporation Counsel of New York City, also joined the letter.