A federal judge has ruled in favor of the lawsuit filed earlier this year by Attorney General T.J. Donovan to protect food assistance. In January, Attorney General Donovan joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general and New York City in filing a lawsuit to stop the Trump Administration from eliminating food assistance for nearly 700,000 Americans, including more than 200 Vermont households as of January 2020. The lawsuit, filed in the District of Columbia, challenged a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that would limit states’ ability to extend benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known in Vermont as 3SquaresVT, beyond a three-month period for certain adults. In the Court’s opinion issued yesterday, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell granted the coalition’s motion for summary judgment and invalidated the entire rule.
“The pandemic has brought into focus how crucial 3SquaresVT is to many Vermont families,” said Attorney General Donovan. “We fought to protect 3SquaresVT, which has been repeatedly under attack by the Trump Administration, and I am pleased with the Court’s decision.”
In the lawsuit filed on January 16, 2020, the coalition asserted that the USDA directly undermined Congress’ intent for the SNAP program, and that the USDA violated the federal rulemaking process by not allowing for a meaningful opportunity to comment on the new rule.
In a decision issued on October 18, 2020, the Court agreed with the coalition and invalidated the rule in its entirety. The Court found that the rule “radically and abruptly alters decades of regulatory practice, leaving States scrambling and exponentially increasing food insecurity for tens of thousands of Americans.” The Court went on to say, “Whether USDA could, using a legally proper process, adequately explain how the Final Rule’s changes both comport with the statutory scheme and make sense is a question for another day. For now, the agency has not done so.”
A copy of the Court’s decision can be found here.