Expanded Emergency Food Stamp Benefits Blocked By Federal Court

In March 2020, Congress passed the first Corona Virus Response Act ("Families First") as a legislative response to the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19. As a component of the new law, Congress has made "emergency provisions" for the benefits of the bid. Under the direction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these emergency provisions did not provide any advantages for about 40% of the recipient averages who actually receive monthly maximum amounts. This week, the judiciary denied a challenge to the agency’s interpretation, which means that families of a low-income monetary system will not see any additional benefits under the provisions of “emergency provisions”.

Food Stamps Wallpaper

Benefits are defined under the country's tender program (officially called the Supplementary Nutrition Program or "SNAP") as needed and are paid by inputs such as income and family size. As of February 2020, each family's daily monthly allowance was around $ 240, and more than 37 million people participated in the exchange program.

Families with very low incomes or those without income are eligible for the "maximum monthly allowances" that support their family size. The maximum bid benefits for a family of 4, for example, is $ 646 a month. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, about 40% of all SNAP families receive their first allocation for their family size.

Family law first and lawsuit

In response to the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19, Congress passed the Families' Program first in March 2020. Among other things, the law allowed the USDA to grant countries the ability to issue emergency allocations to households participating in SNAP "to meet temporary food needs of no more than the maximum For the monthly allowance applicable to family size. "

Later, the U.S. Department of Agriculture interpreted this ruling to mean that families who have already received the maximum monthly allowance will not be eligible for any additional emergency funds according to Family First. The way the agency reads the law, "SNAP families are not allowed to have more than the maximum allocation."

California disagreed with the agency’s interpretation, arguing that the USDA’s interpretation was “inconsistent with both the simple language of the law and the circumstances that led to the law being passed.” The country requested an additional $ 60 per person for emergency benefits.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture rejected the California request, stating that it does not comply with the agency's emergency allocation guidelines. California then revised its request to comply with the US Department of Agriculture's emergency allocation procedures and finally approved it.

In late May 2020, two people, on behalf of a putative class, filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Agriculture in a California federal court on the grounds that the agency acted "more than legal authority" and "arbitrary and capricious" in rejecting California's original request. The case is Hall vs. the United States. Agriculture, No. 20-cv-3454-HSG, provided in the Northern District of California.

Court decision

As part of the lawsuit, plaintiffs of a putative class demanded from the Federal Court a preliminary order that would prevent the USDA from rejecting California's request for additional funds for the poorest people on food stamps.

Noting that she found the argument that "all SNAP families need support in the midst of the epidemic," the court nevertheless rejected the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary order.

For the plaintiffs to succeed in the initial order, they had to prove, among other things, that they were likely to succeed on the basis of their demands. While the court recognized that the plaintiff's reading had a "convincing force", it eventually found that this critical factor was not found here.

While the court indicated that it did not reduce the challenges families face during a public health emergency (COVID-19), it decided that "Congress, not the court, is charged with determining the best way to weigh and need all Americans during this time of crisis, while taking into account budget costs and benefits for various options." Politics ".


While the USDA's interpretation of families first provided little help to about 40% of SNAP families who already receive the monthly maximum, they expanded their eligibility for SNAP families that were receiving less than the maximum benefits. Now, these families may be eligible to receive Emergency Benefit Supplements for their benefit levels. As the agency said, "All eligible SNAP families receiving less than the maximum benefit amount will receive the Emergency Allowance Supplement to raise them to the limit."

While Hall's case is not over, the court decision discussed other legislative measures that Congress is considering to address the economic turmoil in the aftermath of the public health emergency COVID-19. For example, approximately 2,500 organizations urge Congress to increase the maximum benefits of food vouchers by 15%. For the time being, the USDA’s interpretation of Family First’s limitations of the “maximum monthly allowance” remains in effect.