NCLEJ and Partner Organizations File Amicus Brief Opposing Trump Administration’s Draconian SNAP “Work Requirement”

Yesterday, NCLEJ and our partners at the Empire Justice Center, the Legal Aid Society, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute filed an amicus brief in support of the Plaintiffs in District of Columbia v. U.S.D.A.  The litigation, filed by fourteen state attorneys general, the City of New York and the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, challenges harsh work rules finalized by the Trump administration late last year.  In March, the Court ordered that implementation of the work rules be halted during the litigation.  The Plaintiffs now seek to permanently block the rules.

Since 1996, the USDA has limited receipt of SNAP benefits by low-income persons who are 18 to 49 years old and who are not raising minor children (referred to by the rule as “Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents” or “ABAWDs”) to just three months’ worth of food assistance within a three-year period, unless they work at least 20 hours each week. However, states have always been able to apply for waivers that exempt from this rule individuals who live in areas where jobs are scarce, particularly when unemployment rates are high around the country.

Copious data, research, and prior agency experience with work rules in both the SNAP and Medicaid programs show that work rules do nothing to help alleviate poverty and do not actually transition people into stable jobs. Instead, draconian work requirements cut off assistance from people who desperately need assistance and provide no safety net upon which struggling families can fall back when their benefits are cut off.

The new ABAWD rules drastically expand the number of people who are subject to the harsh work requirements, take away discretion needed by states to respond quickly to economic downturns, and put hundreds of thousands of people across the country at risk of losing essential support in the middle of a historic public health and economic crisis.  NCLEJ filed comments opposing these rules before they were finalized, and we continue to oppose them now.

Our amicus brief highlights the difficulties SNAP recipients in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts will face if the rules are allowed to go into effect.  To read our brief, click here.