Attorney General James Leads Nationwide Group Of Attorneys General In Opposition To Change That Could Deprive Millions Of Critical Aid

Attorney General James Leads Nationwide Group of Attorneys General in Opposition to Change That Could Deprive Millions of Critical Aid

 Coalition of 21 Attorneys General argue against change in calculating federal poverty threshold

NEW YORK ­– New York Attorney General Letitia James and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul today announced a coalition of 21 Attorneys General submitted a comment letter to the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB), opposing a proposal that could deprive millions of Americans access to critical aid. The Attorneys General are arguing against an adjustment to the way the federal poverty threshold is calculated, which could result in millions of Americans becoming ineligible for, or entitled to less, government-funded benefits.

“This Administration has declared war on New Yorkers and Americans living in poverty,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “Changing the way the poverty threshold is calculated could negatively impact tens of thousands of New Yorkers and millions more across the country by stripping them of crucial benefits and funding they need to attain a basic standard of living. I’m proud to co-lead this effort to resist a change in calculating the federal poverty threshold because New Yorkers need someone fighting to for their best interests every day.”

A wide range of federal and state programs — including those that provide food stamps and health care assistance, like Medicaid — rely on federal poverty thresholds to set eligibility standards. In their comments, the Attorneys General argue that OMB’s proposal to alter the way the poverty thresholds are updated over time could result in denying millions of people the assistance they deserve.

On May 7, the OMB announced that it would consider lowering the measure of inflation that is used when adjusting the federal poverty threshold. According to the Attorneys General, while the current formula is outdated and does not accurately reflect the spending patterns of people living close to the poverty threshold, a change OMB is considering could worsen flaws in the existing methodology. Additionally, the Attorneys General argue that OMB has not provided any evidence or reasoning to support lowering the measure of inflation. 

For the purposes of calculating the federal poverty threshold, OMB defines inflation as a rise in the general level of prices and represents a decline in the purchasing power of money. In the comments, the Attorneys General highlight research that shows low-income populations experience inflation at rates higher than other populations, and argue that lowering the measure of inflation will lower the poverty threshold and reduce the number of people who are deemed to be living in poverty and who are therefore eligible for federal benefits.

Joining Attorneys General James and Raoul in submitting the comments were the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington.

A copy of the comments from the Attorneys General to OMB can be found here.