AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File Federal judge blocks new food stamps rule
AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File

In her ruling, the judge cited concerns about the spread of the coronavirus and how it will impact vulnerable Americans, including the 700,000 who rely on SNAP for food.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has blocked a Republican-backed plan that could have cut 700,000 enrollees in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) out of benefits from going into effect.

The nationwide injunction, issued Friday by District Court Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell, is a win for unemployed, able-bodied adults without children who would have been forced to work 20 hours a week in order to keep their benefits.

Last week, Democratic Representatives wrote a letter formally requesting President Donald Trump and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to hold off on the work requirements intended to go into effect on April 1, saying it would “unnecessarily increase the burden on the very people who need assistance” and instead asking for benefits to be expanded as a means of mitigating the recession. The administration refused, with the Agriculture Department passing the buck to cash-strapped states to decide. 

“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. 

Two more budget trims targeting the SNAP program are still in the works.