California and 13 other states filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday over new SNAP restrictions.
400,000 cut off CalFresh in California
Under new Federal rules that were set to begin on April 1st, adults without children under the age of 50 currently receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits would have to work 20 hours a week at minimum in order to receive benefits. In California, the number of people who stand to lose their SNAP, also known as CalFresh, benefits stands at 400,000 people. This would amount to over 10% of people currently receiving those benefits. Nationwide this would affect nearly 700,000 people.
California, joined by New York, Virginia, Connecticut, Nevada, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia and New York City, have argued that the Department of Agriculture’s reasoning of bringing back ‘self-sufficiency’ does not give people who stand to lose benefits enough time to get a full-time position and forces people to choose between buying adequate food or rent.
“No one should have to choose between a hot meal and paying their rent,” stated California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Yet again, the Trump Administration has failed to offer any legitimate evidence to justify decisions that have real consequences for the health and well-being of our residents.”
The states in the lawsuit also charge that the U.S. government is acting illegally and is not making sure low-incomes individuals have food security.
$5.5 billion saved through SNAP cuts
The Department of Agriculture has said that the cuts are necessary, would save $5.5 billion on the federal budget, and that the cuts would spur more people to work.
“We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
Other proposed cuts over new SNAP standards would cut off another 200,000 Californians from SNAP benefits, which could have a mix of effects.
While California has begun preparing for the potential loss of SNAP benefits coming in, the state largely doesn’t know how to fill in a potential $400 million gap.
“The state is not in a position to backfill directly the federal contributions by writing a $400 million check,” noted Governor Gavin Newsom on the impending April cuts.
The decision over the cuts
“It’s an easy target,” said Marcus Jackson, a Los Angeles area volunteer who helps people manage CalFresh benefits. “Some single people have issues that prevent them working or unable to perform a full-time job, but aren’t covered under disability. Others have seen reduced hours putting them under the threshold. Yes, there are also some who are doing it out of laziness, but those really struggling outnumber them by far.
Rather than have it more tailored, CalFresh just cuts through and gives a dividing line regardless of circumstances.
It does save the Government money, but the Department of Agriculture itself has said that having SNAP actually gives a lot back. For every dollar given, $1.50 comes back into the economy. But then again they don’t take into account where all of that money exactly goes to.
A lot of people don’t want to give their tax money to people they see as lazy or undeserving as it at the same time people are going hungry and are at the last end of their rope. Especially in California.”
The lawsuit is currently at the U.S. District Court of Washington D.C. where it is awaiting a trial start date.