Federal judge blocks Trump admin welfare work requirement citing ‘coronavirus outbreak’

(USA Features) A federal judge has issued a nationwide injunction against a Trump administration rule requiring able-bodied Americans receiving welfare benefits to be somewhat employed, citing the COVID-19 outbreak.

D.C. District Court Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell, an Obama appointee, blocked a rule the U.S. Department of Agriculture — which administrations food stamps — estimates would have reduced federal spending by $7.9 billion over five years and gradually weaned 755,000 people off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“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,” Howell wrote in her ruling, according to HuffPost.

The administration was sued by a 14-state coalition, two major cities, and the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia over the rule aimed at ending the long-term provision of food stamps to unemployed people,

The “able-bodied” rule provision noted that Americans not caring for a dependent child under the age of six to be were only eligible for food stamp assistance if they are employed or enrolled in a workforce training program.

“The waivers that the Rule curtails are critical to ensuring access to food for low-income people who live in areas with limited employment opportunities,” read the complaint filed by the 14 states and New York City and Washington, DC. “If implemented, the Rule will have a drastic impact on Plaintiffs and their residents by depriving between 688,000 and 850,000 vulnerable Americans of much-needed nutritional assistance.”

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Last year, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue said the rule laid “the groundwork for the expectation that able-bodied Americans re-enter the workforce where there are currently more job openings than people to fill them.”

Despite citing coronavirus, it’s not clear what Howell based her reasoning on regarding her rejection of the rule.

In 1996, then-President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act into law, which, according to POLITICO, “required recipients to begin working after two years of receiving benefits; placed a lifetime limit of five years on benefits paid by federal funds; sought to encourage two-parent families and to discourage out-of-wedlock births; enhanced enforcement of child support, and required state professional and occupational licenses to be withheld from undocumented immigrants.”

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Upon signing the bill, Clinton said it “gives us a chance we haven’t had before to break the cycle of dependency that has existed for millions and millions of our fellow citizens, exiling them from the world of work. It gives structure, meaning and dignity to most of our lives.”

It’s likely the Trump administration will appeal Howell’s ruling.

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