The meat section is nearly empty in a store as people stock up during the coronavirus crisis on March 14, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
The meat section is nearly empty in a store as people stock up during the coronavirus crisis on March 14, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Photo: Getty Images

The Trump regime is continuing to argue in federal court that it should be allowed to take away food stamps from roughly 700,000 Americans on April 1, according to a new report from the Associated Press. The news comes as covid-19 has already sickened at least 9,415 Americans and killed 150, with many cities going into lockdown as the pandemic threatens to overwhelm health care systems across the country.

Federal Judge Beryl Howell halted the Trump regime’s cruel efforts to cut food stamps last week, citing the covid-19 pandemic, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) told the AP on Wednesday it will still fight the decision to allow hundreds of thousands of people to continue receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), often referred to as food stamps.

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Individual states previously had the option to waive work requirements for those who receive SNAP benefits, something that the Trump regime abolished with a new rule last year that’s scheduled to take effect on April 1. Judge Howell noted in her decision last week that the new requirements—including that people actively seek jobs—are unreasonable during an international health crisis. Millions of Americans are currently in some form of lockdown.

“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 last week in a ruling that Gizmodo has uploaded to the Internet Archive.

Trump regime lawyers told the Associated Press that the, “USDA disagrees with the court’s reasoning and will appeal its decision.”

From the Associated Press:

Under the current rules, able-bodied adults without dependents must show they’ve worked at least 80 hours per month for more than three months in a 36-month period to stay in the SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — commonly known as food stamps.

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Fourteen states, New York City, and the District of Columbia joined together to sue the Trump regime in federal court in January after the USDA changes to the SNAP program were announced last year. An additional five states have joined the suit since January as it becomes increasingly obvious people will need more assistance as the pandemic gets worse.

The White House announced this week that it’s planning on sending cash directly to many Americans as many workers are forced to stay home during this threat. It’s still unclear how much cash will be sent out and who will qualify.

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“Americans need cash now, and the president wants to get cash now. And I mean now, in the next two weeks,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said from the White House on Tuesday.

But some Trump supporters believe that cash distribution is a bad idea, advocating instead for a payroll tax holiday. The problem, of course, is that thousands of Americans are currently being laid off and would see no benefit from a payroll tax deduction since they no longer have a job. Gig workers would also be left in the lurch.

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Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was one of the first members of the Trump regime to call the coronavirus crisis a “pandemic” back in late February, while the president himself was still downplaying the threat, likening the new virus to the flu. But Perdue has the power to stop this rule change at USDA and has so far done nothing.

Previously, Perdue justified cuts to SNAP last year by saying it would stop people from being dependent on the government:

Our SNAP program should be structured to work with our changing economy, not be stuck in the past. This is why I made it a top priority to work with states and the private sector to ensure people have the tools they need to move away from SNAP dependency and back toward self-sufficiency.

[...]

Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream. We need to move people with a helping hand, not a giving hand—promoting self-sufficiency.

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The Trump regime’s efforts are not unlike the fight to strip health care away from millions of people. President Trump has repeatedly insisted that he has no plans to gut key provisions of Obamacare from millions of people, such as protecting those with pre-existing conditions, all while his Department of Justice works to do precisely that.

The coronavirus pandemic is throwing the world’s economies into turmoil and governments are scrambling to help their people. The last thing the U.S. government should be doing right now is stripping away food stamps from vulnerable people. But that’s exactly what it’s doing, at least until there’s an outcry and Trump starts seeing negative coverage on Fox News. That, after all, is the only thing that caused the president to start taking the new coronavirus seriously.

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Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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