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U.S. judge blocks Trump attempt to cut food aid

An attempt by the Trump administration to strip food stamps from nearly 700,000 Americans was blocked by a U.S. federal judge.

The judge, in a Sunday court filing, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been “icily silent” about how many people would have been denied the benefits had the changes taken effect during the pandemic, adding that food stamp enrollment has soared during the outbreak as millions of Americans lost their jobs amid the worst recession since the financial crisis.

As of May -- the ruling said -- more than six million people have signed up for benefits, a 17% increase.

The judge wrote: “The Final Rule at issue in this litigation radically and abruptly alters decades of regulatory practice, leaving States scrambling and exponentially increasing food insecurity for tens of thousands of Americans."

The USDA, which administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a benefit also known as SNAP and commonly called "food stamps," announced the change in December.

The rule would've limited each state's ability to waive work requirements, effectively requiring more food stamp recipients to work.

President Donald Trump said at the time many Americans receiving food stamps did not need them given the strong economy and low unemployment. A coalition of states and cities sued to block the change.

The rule was set to take effect on April 1 but was put on hold in March by the same judge, who noted a spike in food stamp demand at the onset of the pandemic.