Politics

New York AG files lawsuit to stop new Trump administration food stamp rule

Key Points
  • New York's Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on Thursday for what she called "unlawful changes" to the nation's food stamp program that would "deny over 700,000 Americans access to basic food assistance."
  • The lawsuit was joined by 13 attorneys general and the City of New York,
  • The rule change, set to go into effect on April 1, impacts people between the ages of 18 and 49 who are childless and not disabled.
New York Attorney General Letitia James
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

New York's Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on Thursday for what she called "unlawful changes" to the nation's food stamp program that would "deny over 700,000 Americans access to basic food assistance."

The lawsuit, joined by 13 attorneys general and the City of New York, challenges a United States Department of Agriculture rule that would limit states' ability to extend benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps, beyond a three-month period for certain adults.

The USDA and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment from CNBC.

The rule change, set to go into effect on April 1, impacts people between the ages of 18 and 49 who are childless and not disabled. Under current rules, this group is required to work at least 20 hours a week for more than three months over a 36-month period to qualify for food stamps, but states have been able to create waivers for areas that face high unemployment.

The new rule would limit states from waiving those standards, instead restricting their use to those areas that have a 6% unemployment rate or higher. The national unemployment rate in October was 3.6% .

The coalition said the rule undermines Congress' intent for SNAP and that the USDA violated the federal rulemaking process. They also argue that the rule would impose significant regulatory burdens on states and harm states' economies and residents.

In the lawsuit, the states argue that the administration's rule change would raise healthcare and homelessness costs.

"The federal government's latest assault on vulnerable individuals is cruel to its core," said James in a press release. "Denying access to vital SNAP benefits would only push hundreds of thousands of already vulnerable Americans into greater economic uncertainty. In so doing, states will have to grapple with rising healthcare and homelessness costs that will result from this shortsighted and ill-conceived policy."