During a global pandemic, of course, Trump wants to restrict people’s access to food stamps.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a notice this week that it was appealing a judge’s injunction that blocked the cabinet agency from proceeding with cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka, food stamps.
According to Time,
If the USDA wins its appeal, the new requirements would strip 688,000 Americans of their food benefits, according to Department’s own estimates. In March, Congress passed legislation that temporarily paused limits on how long most SNAP recipients could receive benefits without working for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Thus, if the USDA is victorious in its court challenge, the stricter work requirements would be temporarily delayed until the public health emergency was over—but that may be long before the economy rebounds.
For decades, SNAP has limited most able-bodied, childless adults between 18 and 49 to receiving three months of food stamps within a three-year period, unless they work or are in a work-training program for at least 20-hours per week. But states could grant waivers exempting places with higher than average unemployment from the time limits individuals could stay on SNAP without satisfying the work requirements. Over the last 22 years, every state except Delaware has used these waivers to help residents get access to food, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
On April 1, the USDA was ready to change the rules. Under the new order, states would have to prove that a region’s average unemployment rate was 6% for the preceding 24-month period, on top of it being at least 20% above the national average.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said at the time,
“We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand, but not allowing it to become an infinitely giving hand…”
In mid-March, a federal judge issued an injunction on the rule, stating that aspects of it were
“likely unlawful because they are arbitrary and capricious.”
The coronavirus was more reason to block the policy change, she wrote:
“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.”
Rep. Marcia Fudge, the Chair of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations called the USDA’s effort a
“cruel pursuit of unrealistic policy.”
“The Administration has decided that now—amid the most pervasive need in a century—is a great time to crack down on Americans who rely on food stamps to keep their families from going hungry. Congress is investing more in this program so that we can meet the challenge before us.”
“If they had any decency or compassion, they would abandon this appeal immediately.”
(Photo, Wikimedia Commons; via Time)