$700 Million Obtained for Pennsylvanians on Food Stamps

Thursday, February 2, 2023

More than 650,000 Pennsylvanian households that struggled to make ends meet during COVID-19 benefited from a significant settlement that Morgan Lewis—in conjunction with a nonprofit—reached with the US government. Beyond the $700 million-plus in emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits obtained, the US Department of Agriculture revised its guidance that had blocked the benefits, further expanding the impact of the victory.

Morgan Lewis worked in conjunction with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia to secure the pro bono victory regarding the SNAP benefits, commonly known as food stamps. We negotiated a settlement with the USDA securing the emergency benefits for Pennsylvanians under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). In the case, Gilliam v. USDA, the plaintiffs challenged the USDA’s guidance interpreting the FFCRA that had deprived nearly 40% of Pennsylvania’s poorest residents of the benefits.

Initially, the plaintiffs won a preliminary injunction in federal court prohibiting the USDA from applying its interpretation of the FFCRA. The USDA appealed and threatened to seek recovery of any emergency benefits paid under the injunction, effectively preventing their distribution. However, under the settlement, more than $700 million in funds allocated by the USDA to Pennsylvania was made available for distribution, and the USDA agreed to revise its guidance that was challenged in the litigation.

Morgan Lewis received the 2022 Excellence Award from Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, and partner John Lavelle received the Philadelphia Bar Association’s 2021 Citizens Bank Achievement Award for advocating on behalf of Pennsylvanian households.

In the News

To learn more about this matter, see the story on Pittsburgh’s NPR station, WESA.