USDA will appeal order blocking it from purging food stamp recipients

USDA will appeal order blocking it from purging food stamp recipients

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will appeal a court order barring a change to the food stamps program that could remove up to 700,000 recipients, the Associated Press reports.

While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program requires non-disabled adults without dependents to document that they have worked at least 80 hours a month for more than three months, states have the option to waive the requirements for areas with high unemployment rates. The proposed change would do away with this option.

Judge Beryl Howell, an Obama appointee, ruled last week that the changes could not take effect, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

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“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.

Asked for comment, the Department of Agriculture told the AP the “USDA disagrees with the court’s reasoning and will appeal its decision.”

Ellen Vollinger, legal director for the advocacy group the Food Research & Action Center, told the AP the rule would be particularly ill-timed during a pandemic because hourly workers would feel compelled to go to work even if they feel sick.

“You don’t want to have workers going out when they’re sick and trying to document the right number of hours just to keep their benefits,” she told the AP.

Meanwhile, the relief package recently passed by the House would also bar the federal government from curtailing SNAP benefits due to the work requirement, according to the AP.