Trump Food-Stamp Cuts Blocked by Judge Who Cites Pandemic

(Bloomberg) -- A federal judge in Washington put off much of the Trump administration’s effort to make it harder for poor Americans to get food assistance, in a blistering ruling that not only criticized the White House but chided other courts for having too often “rolled over” to the president’s demands.

In an 84-page ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell issued a nationwide injunction that blocks two of the three changes the White House had made to the nation’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

The changes tighten the rules that states, who administer the program programs, must follow when extending food-stamp benefits beyond three months. They would cut off benefits to about 700,000 people, at a time when the coronavirus is spreading across the country, Howell wrote. She allowed to let stand a provision that would limit states’ ability to carry over unused discretionary exemptions for the three-month limit.

“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 said,

Howell’s ruling holds off on the new Snap rules while they are reviewed by the court.

District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine celebrated the ruling on Twitter:

Nineteen states, the district and New York City sued the Trump administration in January to block the new rule.

In her ruling, Howell vigorously rejected the administration’s claim that federal courts lacked the authority to issue a nationwide injunction to check the power of the White House.

“Perhaps that sort of power grab is to be expected from the executive branch,” she wrote. “What is unexpected, and dangerous to the maintenance of our constitutional order, is that instead of fighting back, some courts have rolled over. In a growing number of cases, the Supreme Court has granted the federal government the relief it seeks.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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