Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced last week that Pennsylvania will be joining 13 other states, the District of Columbia, and the city of New York in filing a lawsuit against the USDA over recent changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps).
Related reading: What do the USDA's changes to SNAP eligibility requirements mean?
The lawsuit specifically argues against a ruling made on December 5, 2019, and does not include unimplemented proposed changes from July and October. The new rule restricts states' abilities to waive eligibility limitations by county based on local economic conditions, instead setting a federal standard. Until the December 2019 ruling, the waiving system remained unchanged since 1996.
According to the USDA, the new federal standard will encourage unemployed Americans to find work and prevent states from abusing SNAP by inflating their reported numbers of residents who rely on the program.
The 99-page text of this week's lawsuit, submitted to the District Court of Washington D.C., claims that the USDA is undermining SNAP's goal of providing food security for low-income individuals, that states were not allowed meaningful input in the rulemaking process as required by the Administrative Procedure Act, and asserts that the USDA's claims that states were gaming the SNAP waiving system were presented without any accompanying evidence.
It is also noted in the lawsuit that the same waiving limitations were rejected by Congress while negotiating the 2018 Farm Bill, implying that the USDA went out of its way to ram through an unpopular policy.
AG Shapiro's involvement in the lawsuit is unsurprising; several of Pennsylvania's state government officials condemned the USDA ruling during a press conference on December 10. The original condemnations focused on the number of people who will lose SNAP benefits from the new rule - an estimated 700,000 people across the country - without indicating suspicion of illegal activity by the USDA.