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AG Sues To Stop Trump Administration From Ending Food Assistance For 21K Oregonians

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum joined 14 states, Washington, D.C. and New York City Thursday in suing the Trump administration over its decision to eliminate food assistance for nearly 700,000 Americans.

The lawsuit challenges a U.S. Department of Agriculture rule that would limit states’ ability to extend food stamp benefits in places where jobs are scarce.

That could mean more than 21,000 Oregonians lose their benefits.

The rule, set to take effect April 1, would restrict states’ ability to allow certain adults to receive benefits for more than three months in a three-year period if they aren’t working or training for at least 20 hours a week.

The lawsuit was filed in U..S District Court for the District of Columbia. Rosenblum joined a coalition of state attorneys general in urging the court to declare the rule unlawful.

“The food stamp program (known as ‘SNAP’) has helped vulnerable Oregonians for over 40 years,” said Rosenblum in a statement.

“It is hard to fathom why the federal government wants to punish thousands of adults in some of the most employment-impacted areas of our state — people who may not be able to find jobs — by taking away their access to food.”

While the federal government pays the full cost of SNAP benefits, it shares the cost of administering the program on a 50/50 basis with the states, which operate the program. According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, nearly 350,000 households statewide receive SNAP benefits, totaling over 580,000 Oregonians. 

When the USDA proposed the rule, they received over 100,000 comments — the majority expressing opposition. The USDA finalized the rule in December.

The lawsuit aims to issue an injunction to prevent the rule going into effect on April 1. In the lawsuit, the states argue that the new rule:

Contradicts statutory language and Congress’ intent for the food-stamp program.

Raises healthcare and homelessness costs while lowering economic activity in the states.

Amends the law for arbitrary and capricious reasons

Violates federal rulemaking process.

In December, Oregon DHS director Fariborz Pakseresht condemned the federal changes.

“For those already facing difficult circumstances, this rule exacerbates those circumstances,” Pakseresht said.

“It also will result in an increased burden on food banks and other community resources to fill the void.”

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Donald Orr is a reporter for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He was a news production assistant for OPB through the Emerging Northwest Journalists Internship created by AAJA-Portland and the Society for Professional Journalists Oregon. He is an alum of NPR’s Next Generation Radio.