Court Rules in Favor of Hungry and Unemployed Americans; U.S. Congress Should Do the Same with COVID-19 Relief

Just recently, a federal judge formally struck down the Trump Administration’s attempt to end food stamp benefits for nearly 700,000 unemployed people. In his ruling, the judge called the proposed rule change “arbitrary and capricious.”

The Trump Administration tried to impose a new rule that would have severely limited the states’ option to waive the work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents who were trying to access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) who live in high unemployment areas of our country. This was a break from how protections in the federal welfare reform law of 1996 have traditionally been carried out in times with high levels of joblessness.

Under current law, able-bodied adults without dependents, between the ages of 18 and 49, can receive benefits for a maximum of three months during a three-year period, unless they are working or enrolled in an education or training program for 80 hours a month. Additionally, states can waive this time limit for certain counties with an unemployment rate as low as 2.5 percent. The new rule would have tightened the criteria for states applying for such waivers, making 6 percent the minimum unemployment rate for a county to receive a waiver. This change could have taken away SNAP benefits from over 700,000 adults nationally.

Empower Missouri, along with over 100,000 other individuals and organizations, submitted comments decrying this rule change! In our submitted comments we said: “The idea that this type of policy helps or encourages individuals to find sufficient employment is a farce. You can’t get a job when you’re hungry.”

The judge who ruled against the proposed rule change mentioned this large outcry of submitted comments in his ruling.  The voices of those who submitted comments and who would be impacted by this change were heard, and this is an important reminder of how important it is that we take time to respond to a request for comments on a federal rules change. We know that several members of our Food Security Coalition did respond. Great job to everyone who submitted comments!

We hope that Congress will also listen to the voices of advocates and impacted individuals and families and work to pass a strong coronavirus relief package that includes a fifteen percent increase in funding for SNAP. The deadline for a package to be passed before the election is quickly approaching. Each of us must continue to raise our voices – imploring that our elected officials act and ACT QUICKLY!

Please continue to let your voices be heard by contacting Sen. Blunt and Sen. Hawley.

This is a case where one contact is not enough. Even if you have already taken action, we hope that you will contact your senators again today. There is an action alert on our website that makes contacting your Senators very easy, and it may easily be edited into your own words (making it much more effective). CLICK HERE to find the action alert!

In solidarity,

Christine Woody
Senior Policy & Organizing Coordinator

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