U.S. District Court Issues Injunction On SNAP Time Limits Rule For ABAWDs

On Friday, March 13, a federal judge from the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C., issued a nationwide injunction blocking the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) for Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) from taking effect. The Trump administration rule, scheduled to take effect April 1, would have forced nearly 700,000 Americans off food stamps (SNAP). In the ruling, District Court Judge Beryl Howell called the rule change capricious, arbitrary and likely unlawful.

The rule change would have required able-bodied adults without children (ABAWD) to work at least 20 hours a week in order to qualify for SNAP benefits beyond three months. It would also have limited states’ usual ability to waive those requirements depending on economic conditions. The preliminary injunction will preserve that flexibility.

This is very welcome news given the extraordinary circumstances Pennsylvanians are facing due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the grave risks of taking SNAP away from those who need it now more than ever. Please pass this information on to others, and to clients! Everyone is experiencing stress; at least this injunction ruling may be lifted.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it was adopting the rule change in December, but critics have called on the department to suspend implementation, especially in light of the economic crisis spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the department planned to move ahead with the rule.

While the rule applies to “able-bodied adults without dependents,” anti-hunger advocates note that category can include parents who don’t have primary custody of their kids, youths who have recently aged out of foster care and some low-income college students.

In her ruling, Howell cited concerns raised by the spread of coronavirus and its effect on the most vulnerable Americans. “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,” she wrote.

The change to SNAP is now blocked from taking effect pending the outcome of a lawsuit by 19 states plus the District of Columbia and New York City. Read more.

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