Judge Strikes Down Trump Admin. Rule That Would Slash Food Stamps For 700,000 Americans
The administration’s proposed rule change, which was finalized last year, would have impacted hundreds of thousands of individuals in need while saving the government $5.5 billion over five years.
A federal judge this week struck down the Trump administration’s efforts to make it more difficult for Americans to get food stamps.
D.C. Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell on October 18 condemned the administration’s attempted rule change that would limit the number of Americans that can rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
In a 67-page opinion, Howell detailed how the administration failed to consider that the rule would negatively affect hundreds of thousands of individuals impacted by the pandemic.
“The Final Rule at issue in this litigation radically and abruptly alters decades of regulatory practice, leaving states scrambling and exponentially increasing food insecurity for tens of thousands of Americans," she said.
Beryl also said the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees SNAP, had “been icily silent” regarding how many Americans would have been impacted if the administration’s rule changes were allowed to go into effect during the pandemic.
Late last year, the USDA announced that it had finalized one of three rules that would affect the criteria in which able-bodied adults with no dependents are able to use the program — impacting hundreds of thousands of individuals in need, while reportedly saving the government $5.5 billion over five years, according to officials.
A coalition of U.S. states, Washington, D.C., New York City, and private groups then filed a lawsuit against the USDA following the announcement, saying it would result in” the termination of essential food assistance for benefits recipients who live in areas with insufficient jobs."
The rule change was even unpopular among some Republican lawmakers, who joined a bipartisan group of 47 senators asking the Trump administration to withdraw it because it would “take food assistance away from families.”
The proposal was supposed to go into effect in April 2020, but Howell temporarily enjoined it on March 13 — the same day President Trump declared the coronavirus outbreak a national emergency. Congress then waived the new SNAP requirement for the duration of the emergency, pushing back the administration’s implementation date. The USDA then appealed Howell’s order.
Howell’s new ruling grants summary judgment to the coalition that filed the lawsuit, while condemning the USDA for failing to justify how the new rule would impact vulnerable Americans during the pandemic, which she pointed out in the opinion, has also quadrupled the national unemployment rate.
Correction: This article has been updated to properly state when Howell's ruling was given. We regret the error.