WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As a federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s new food stamp work requirement rules, Democrats called for them to scrapped entirely amid concerns about coronavirus.
“There can’t be any sort of means test when you’re in the middle of pandemic,” Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., said.
“This is one of those of those cases where these philosophical arguments about whether there should be work requirements in order to receive benefits, all of those should be set aside,” Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich. added.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture had insisted on pushing through the new work requirements April 1 despite the pandemic. They would bar states from extending food stamps to able-bodied adults without children beyond 90 days and were expected to strip food assistance from about 700,000 Americans.
“I was disappointed, given what is happening. April 1st is not a magical day, just the one they picked on their calendar,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities senior policy analyst Ed Bolen said in a phone interview.
A federal judge halted implementation, calling the policy arbitrary and expressed concern about its impacts on already vulnerable Americans as the country works to slow the spread of coronavirus.
A USDA spokesperson said in a statement that the agency “disagrees with the court’s reasoning” and “will appeal its decision.” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said states would have power to waive requirements for individuals impacted by the virus.
Bolen, of the CBPP, applauded the judge’s decision, saying the work requirements defy research. He agreed the coronavirus will make it extremely difficult for people to find work.
Congress is working to extend benefits to impacted families. A plan from the Democrat-led House would invest $1 billion in food service programs, and suspend work and work training requirements for food stamps during the pandemic.
“We’re concerned about people that are not working,” Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., said.
“I think on the food access sides, it has the potential to be a good response, mostly because it’s going to be flexible for states,” Bolen said of the bill.
The Senate could pass the plan this week.