A federal judge has halted Donald Trump’s plans to cut SNAP benefits. In a ruling issued Friday evening, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell, originally appointed by the Obama administration, called for a rule change to Trump’s proposed bill that would affect recipients who receive benefits from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The move would have forced 700,000 people off of SNAP starting April 1.
Howell cited concerns raised by the rapid spread of coronavirus and its effect on the most vulnerable Americans. “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,” she wrote in a statement.
Under Trump’s new regulations, the new mandate would have required able-bodied adults without children to work at least 20 hours a week in order to qualify SNAP benefits past three months. It also would have limited the states’ ability to waive those requirements depending on economic conditions.
Anti-hunger advocates note that stipulation for “abled-bodied adults without dependents” can include parents who don’t have primary custody of their kids and young adults who have recently aged out of the foster care as well as low-income college students.
Prior to the ruling, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the department planned to move ahead with the rule change previously announced in December but was suspended due to heavy criticism. Now, the change to SNAP is blocked, thanks to a lawsuit by 19 states in addition to the District of Columbia and New York City.
“This is a major victory for our country’s most vulnerable residents who rely on SNAP to eat,” D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine, who co-led the coalition behind the lawsuit, said in a statement. “The Trump administration’s rule would have forced hundreds of thousands of people who could not find work, including 13,000 District residents, to go hungry. That could have been catastrophic in the midst of our current public health emergency.”