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Attorney General Applauds Lawsuit Challenging Trump Administration’s Food Assistance Cuts

March 24th, 2021 by WCBC Radio

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh today applauded the federal Court of Appeals 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, Attorney General Frosh joined a multistate coalition 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 Maryland residents who rely on the program.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) initially appealed that decision.  This week, the DOJ asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to dismiss the appeal.  As a result, Chief Judge Howell’s decision striking down the rule is final, and the cuts will not go into effect.  


“The SNAP program provides necessary food assistance to thousands of Maryland residents, particularly children,” said Attorney General Frosh.  “Removing this assistance, particularly in the midst of a worldwide pandemic as millions of people struggled financially, was cruel, unjust, and unlawful.”


SNAP has served as the country’s primary response to hunger since 1977, and as 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.  


While the federal government pays the full cost of SNAP benefits, it shares the costs of administering the program on a 50-50 basis with the states, which operate the program. In its 1996 federal welfare reform law, Congress limited the time period that unemployed able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) could access SNAP benefits to three months in any 36-month period. Still, the law granted states the ability to request waivers for that time limit if the state or part of the state had an unemployment rate above 10 percent, or did not have enough jobs to provide employment for the SNAP recipients who resided there.  Congress has reauthorized the statute four times without limiting states’ discretion over these matters—including in the 2018 Farm Bill, in which a bipartisan coalition rejected nearly identical restrictions to those later created by the rule.