A federal judge shot down a Trump administration rule reducing the food stamp benefits to nearly 700,000 Americans during a worldwide pandemic.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell ruled Sunday that implementing Trump’s rule would “radically and abruptly alter decades of regulatory practice, leaving States scrambling and exponentially increasing food insecurity for tens of thousands of Americans.”
In December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) formalized a proposal that would limit a state’s ability to grant waivers to qualify for food stamps in areas with high unemployment. The rule would affect people between the ages of 18 and 49 who are childless and not disabled.
“We’re taking action to reform our SNAP program in order to restore the dignity of work to a sizable segment of our population and be respectful of the taxpayers who fund the program,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said at the time. “Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch. That’s the commitment behind SNAP, but, like other welfare programs, it was never intended to be a way of life.”
However, Howell said Sunday the USDA has been “icily silent” on the number of people who would be affected by its proposed changes to food stamp waivers. Howell noted a May 2020 estimate found “SNAP rosters have grown by over 17 percent with over 6 million new enrollees.”
This is not the first time Howell has blocked the proposal cutting waivers on food stamps. In March, the judge issued a preliminary injunction against the rule referring to the food insecurity across the country as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since March, the pandemic has only gotten worse, especially since the benefits of the first coronavirus stimulus package ran out in July. According to The New York Times, almost 2 million people in the city cannot afford food currently and are forced to wait in increasingly long lines at food pantries.
The Association of American Medical Colleges reported 54 million Americans are dealing with food insecurity due to the pandemic and if things don’t change soon, the number could be larger by 2021.