Trump administration urges court to allow food stamp restrictions to go into effect

Trump administration urges court to allow food stamp restrictions to go into effect
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The Trump administration is asking a federal judge to allow it to move forward with new restrictions on food stamps that could leave as many as 700,000 people without access to the assistance program.

Facing a lawsuit over the move from more than a dozen states and cities, the Department of Justice urged Judge Beryl A. Howell, an Obama appointee in the U.S. District Court for D.C., to deny the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction that would temporarily block the move before it can go into effect in April.

In a filing submitted to the court late Wednesday night, the administration argued that any potential harms that the lawsuit raises about the new regulation are "either self-inflicted, insufficiently explained, or too insignificant to justify an injunction."

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"The balance of the equities and public interest thus tip in favor of retaining a Rule designed to remedy the abuse of an important program that Congress intended to incentivize self-sufficiency," the filing reads.

The tightening of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will make it much harder for able-bodied adults with no dependents to qualify for the benefit. States had been able to obtain waivers to a 1996 law imposing strict criteria for such people to qualify, but the new rule from the Department of Agriculture will severely limit those waivers. 

Last month, a group of 17 cities and states, led by those from D.C. and New York, sued the Agriculture Department and asked Howell to prevent the rule from going into effect while the court fight plays out.

"The loss of essential food and nutrition by hundreds of thousands of individuals will result in detrimental health outcomes, increased use of health services, including emergency and hospital services, and increased rates of poverty and housing instability," the group of officials wrote in their lawsuit. "Plaintiffs will bear the burdens associated with reduced quality in residents’ healthcare, housing, and nutrition, and they will suffer irreparable harm to their public health."

The court will hold a hearing on the preliminary injunction motion on March 5.