“The last rule in this lawsuit radically and abruptly changes decades of legislative practice, leaving states distorted and exponentially increasing the food insecurity of tens of thousands of Americans,” Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, wrote in -page decision stating that the agency has not adequately explained how the rule compiles federal statutes or how it “makes sense”.
The claim could have resulted in 688,000 non-disabled adults of working age without dependents losing their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, or SNAP, as food stamps are formally known, according to estimates by the Department of Agriculture calculated before the pandemic. It was expected to save $ 5.5 billion over five years.
Enrollment in food stamps has risen during the outbreak as millions of Americans lost their jobs. More than 6 million people have signed up for benefits since May, a 17% increase according to the ruling.
Nearly 43 million Americans received benefits in April, according to the latest data from the Department of Agriculture.
In normal times, the food stamp program requires non-disabled adults of working age without relatives to have jobs. They can only receive benefits for three months out of each 36-month period, unless they work or participate in training programs 20 hours a week. There were 2.9 million of these recipients in 2018, and nearly 74% of them were not employed, according to the agency.
The Department of Agriculture did not immediately return a request requesting comment.
States can waive the work requirement for areas where unemployment is at least 10% or there is an insufficient number of jobs, as defined by the Ministry of Labor. The new rule would have made it more difficult for states to receive these exemptions by tightening the definition of areas where there are insufficient jobs, narrowing the geographical areas with exemptions and limiting their duration, among other provisions.
The move is one of the three Trump administrations’ efforts to revise the food stamp program.