The following is a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office submitted to SOURCE media
BOSTON – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey applauded the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’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 Healey joined a multistate coalition in suing the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) over a rule that proposed restrictions on the receipt of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
In March 2020, Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia temporarily halted parts of the rule, later striking down the rule in its entirety in October. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) under the Trump Administration initially appealed the decision, but on Monday the DOJ successfully asked the Court to dismiss the appeal.
As a result of Tuesday’s dismissal, the planned cuts to SNAP benefits will not go into effect, protecting access for tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents who rely on the program
“This is a huge victory in our fight to protect Massachusetts residents who rely on the SNAP program to put food on the table, especially as we recover from this economic crisis,” said Healey. “With my colleagues across the country, we have fought tirelessly against the Trump Administration’s cruel proposals to hurt some of our most vulnerable residents and will keep working together to combat food insecurity in our communities.”
The SNAP program provides millions of Americans with limited incomes the opportunity to access nutritious food that they otherwise would not have. SNAP has served as the country’s primary response to hunger since 1977 and is a crucial component of federal and state efforts to help lift people out of poverty.
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.
The lawsuit brought by AG Healey and a coalition of attorneys general challenged a finalized rule by USDA in 2020 that would have limited states’ ability to extend SNAP benefits beyond the three-month period. In their complaint, the attorneys general argued that the rule directly undermines Congress’s intent for the program and that the USDA violated the federal rulemaking process.
In March 2020, Chief Judge Howell granted the coalition’s request for preliminary relief in part and halted the implementation of significant portions of the rule while the case proceeded.
In October, Chief Judge Howell issued a 67-page decision striking down the rule in its entirety because the rule violated the federal rulemaking process, contradicted Congressional intent for the SNAP program, and was poorly reasoned.
The lawsuit, led by the District of Columbia and New York, was joined by the attorneys general of 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. The multistate action was consolidated with an action brought on behalf of private plaintiffs by the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia.
In the Massachusetts AG’s Office, this case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Angela Brooks, Director of AG Healey’s Children’s Justice Unit, and Assistant Attorney General Widmaier Charles of AG Healey’s Civil Rights Division.
To further protect SNAP benefits for some of Massachusetts’s most vulnerable residents, on Friday AG Healey joined a letter to Congress signed by 17 states and New York City in support of the Improving Access to Nutrition Act. If enacted, the bill would eliminate limitations on the time period during which ABAWDs 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.
Healey joined the multistate letter led by the District of Columbia. Attorneys General from Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, 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.