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Steven Summers' Story


Western Center settles lawsuit against USDA to get emergency food benefits to one million California households who need it most.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Steve Summers received $194 per month in food benefits through SNAP, which is the maximum amount for a household of one person. Steve was in his mid 60s, and because of his age and underlying health conditions, was also among those considered most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Despite Congress authorizing emergency allotments for additional SNAP benefits during the COVID emergency, Steve did not receive emergency allotments due to USDA guidance that denied emergency aid to people receiving the maximum amount of SNAP, meaning those with the lowest incomes. Steve was scheduled to start a new job in March of 2020, but just before the first day of work, state and local governments issued stay-at-home orders and his job was cancelled.

In May of 2020, Steve became a plaintiff in our case, Hall v. USDA, which said USDA went against congressional intent by denying emergency allotments to people receiving the maximum SNAP benefit. Almost a year later, the lawsuit was settled when USDA agreed to immediately stop enforcing its guidance on emergency allotments as to California. On the same day of the settlement, USDA issued new guidance announcing a policy change to provide emergency allotments to all households enrolled in SNAP with minimum payments of $95 per month for each household.

As long as the emergency persists, Steve and other Californians in his position will receive additional emergency benefits to help during the extreme hardship brought on by the pandemic. Of the lawsuit, Steve says, “Thanks to Western Center and Impact Fund for all their work in the past and in the months to come.”

Read more about the case in Steve’s words here.