Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Volunteers from City harvest distribute food in Harlem on March 28, 2020 in New York City.

Volunteers from City harvest distribute food in Harlem on March 28, 2020 in New York City. (Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images)

Applause as Biden USDA Scraps Trump Bid to Take Food Benefits From More Than a Million People

"Trump's biggest regulatory attack on SNAP is officially dead and buried."

Jake Johnson

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday announced the official end of a Trump-era policy that could have stripped federal food benefits from more than a million people during the coronavirus pandemic by imposing more draconian work requirements on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients.

A federal court allowed the Biden USDA—headed by recently confirmed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack—to withdraw the Trump administration's appeal of an earlier ruling that blocked the policy change, which would have made it more difficult for states to waive work requirements for SNAP beneficiaries despite the ongoing economic crisis.

"Hunger is not an economic motivator—it is a policy failure. SNAP benefits provide the hand up so many Americans need in times of financial instability."
—Rep. Jahana Hayes

"We are pleased to finally put to rest a policy that would have restricted the ability of states to provide nutrition assistance to able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) during times of high unemployment," Vilsack said in a statement. "The rule would have penalized individuals who were unable to find consistent income, when many low-wage jobs have variable hours, and limited to no sick leave."

"Groups with typically higher unemployment, including rural Americans, Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and People of Color, and those with less than a high school education would have been disproportionately harmed by this cruel policy," Vilsack added.

According to the Trump USDA's own estimates, the rule would have rendered more than 700,000 people ineligible for federal nutrition benefits, a devastating blow for those struggling to put food on the table amid widespread joblessness. Experts argued that the USDA's analysis likely underestimated the number of people who would have been harmed by the policy change.

With hunger still at staggering levels across the U.S.—the latest Census data shows that more than 20 million adults said their households did not have enough to eat last month—Democratic lawmakers and activists celebrated USDA's move to scrap a policy that would have made the crisis much worse.

Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), chair of the House Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations, said in a statement Wednesday that "amidst a pandemic in which millions of Americans are struggling to find work, it is especially important to ensure that as many Americans as possible retain eligibility for federal benefits like SNAP."

"Hunger is not an economic motivator—it is a policy failure," Hayes added. "SNAP benefits provide the hand up so many Americans need in times of financial instability. I am pleased USDA has dropped this appeal."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Despite Housing Crisis, Mississippi May Return Up to Millions in Federal Rent Aid to DC

"For them to suggest people like me aren't working? It's a slap in the face," said one woman affected by the end of the pandemic assistance program. "It's very insulting and degrading."

Brett Wilkins ·

80% of US Voters Across Party Lines Support Expanding Social Security

"With Republicans threatening to cut benefits—and worse, eliminate the program entirely—Dems need to make clear they're fighting to protect and expand benefits."

Jessica Corbett ·

Rich Nations Again Accused of Vaccine Hoarding as UK OKs Moderna Omicron Booster

"While countries like the U.K. buy updated vaccines for their fourth doses, people in low- and middle-income countries are fighting today's variants with yesterday's vaccines."

Brett Wilkins ·

With Trumpian Claims of Cheating, Starbucks Demands Halt to Union Elections

"Unfortunately, it's now in vogue for the losers of some elections nationwide to attempt to reverse elections by any means they think are necessary," said Starbucks Workers United.

Jake Johnson ·

Richest Country on Earth to One of Its Poorest: We're Keeping the Money We Stole From You

A foreign affairs columnist called the move by the Biden administration a "shortsighted, morally unconscionable, and potentially calamitous decision for a country on the cusp of universal poverty."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo