A federal judge on Sunday threw out a Trump Administration proposal that would have cut food stamps to 700,000 Americans, including many foster youths aging out of care, at the end of the coronavirus emergency, which has put millions out of work.
The rule would have barred states from providing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to a category of beneficiaries known as “able-bodied adults with no dependents.” Under current law, states have the authority to waive work requirements and extend food stamp benefits beyond three months to such people in depressed areas.
The program is generally thought of as a way to make sure parents have enough resources to keep themselves and their children fed.
But many young adults in foster care and others who tend to work in subsistence-level occupations have seen their jobs go away indefinitely. With many people’s savings largely depleted and job growth slowing, Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ripped the Department of Agriculture’s proposed final rule as “arbitrary and capricious.”
She noted that, while states have the responsibility to ensure that able-bodied adults work or get job training so that they can support themselves, the basic premise of the SNAP program is to stave off hunger for Americans.
Cutting able-bodied adults out of the food stamp program when work is so hard to come by would run counter to the larger goal, Howell wrote, yet the Agriculture Department “utterly failed” to provide any legal or policy rationale for proposing the rule.
The rule, proposed when the economy was strong, would save the government $5.5 billion over five years.
“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,” Howell wrote. “Whether USDA could, using a legally proper process, adequately explain how the Final Rule’s changes both comport with the statutory scheme and make sense is a question for another day. For now, the agency has not done so.”
On March 13, the same day President Donald Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency, Howell temporarily blocked the rule, which would have taken effect in April. The administration then said it would hold off on implementing the rule until the end of the health emergency and appealed Howell’s temporary injunction.
But on Sunday, the judge made her ruling final. The Agriculture Department did not respond to requests for comment, multiple news agencies reported.