Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Thursday joined a group of 13 attorneys general and New York City in a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop a rule change that they say would eliminate food assistance for nearly 700,000 Americans.
The USDA proposed a rule change in July 2019 that would close a loophole that allows people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits automatically eligible to participate in the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“For too long, this loophole has been used to effectively bypass important eligibility guidelines. Too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a statement in July.
Perdue argued that the flexibility of the program was so great that a millionaire couple was able to enroll in the program to highlight the waste of taxpayer money.
The lawsuit Nessel joined argues that the rule change undermines Congress’ intent for the food-stamp program and that it would cause “significant regulatory burdens on the states.”
“This proposed rule is entirely unacceptable and exhibits a blatant disregard for more than 10 percent of SNAP recipients in Michigan,” Nessel said in a statement. “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.”
The lawsuit also argues that the rule change would raise costs for healthcare and homelessness while lowering economic activity, as well as violates the federal rule-making process and changes the law for “arbitrary and capricious reasons.”
The lawsuit includes attorneys general from California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia. It also includes New York City.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a letter to the Trump administration opposing the rule change in September.
Read the full 99-page complaint here.
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Jordyn Pair is a reporter with Battleground State News and The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]