An Obama-appointed federal judge blocked a Trump administration rule that would have tightened work requirements for food stamps, citing the coronavirus pandemic as the reason she made her decision.
D.C. District Court Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell granted a preliminary injunction blocking the recent Trump administration rule on food stamps, which the USDA estimates would have reduced federal spending by $7.9 billion over five years and gradually weaned 755,000 people off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the government program in charge of food stamps.
“Especially now, as a global pandemic poses widespread health risks, guaranteeing that government officials at both the federal and state levels have flexibility to address the nutritional needs of residents and ensure their well-being through programs like SNAP, is essential,” Howell wrote in her ruling, according to HuffPost.
A 14-state coalition, two major cities, and the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia have all sued the Trump administration over its rule to stop states from providing food stamps to long-term unemployed residents.
Under the “able-bodied” provision in the rule, Americans who are not caring for a dependent younger than six years old would only be eligible for food stamps if they are employed or enrolled in a workforce training program.
“The waivers that the Rule curtails are critical to ensuring access to food for low-income people who live in areas with limited employment opportunities,” read the complaint filed by the 14 states and New York City and Washington, DC. “If implemented, the Rule will have a drastic impact on Plaintiffs and their residents by depriving between 688,000 and 850,000 vulnerable Americans of much-needed nutritional assistance.”
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said last year that this rule laid “the groundwork for the expectation that able-bodied Americans re-enter the workforce where there are currently more job openings than people to fill them.”
However, while the Trump administration’s initial rule meant to cut the number of food stamp recipients, President Donald Trump struck a deal with House Democrats that included paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, free testing, and money for food stamps, the Washington Post reported. The bill is now set to go to the Senate.
Trump also declared a national emergency to free up additional resources for state and local governments fighting coronavirus.