Illinois recently joined a multi-state lawsuit over new rules on food stamps. OneNewsNow spoke to an attorney who believes this is a political argument masquerading as a legal argument.
The food stamp rules from the Trump administration state that able-bodied adults with no dependents should work, train, or volunteer 20 hours a week in order to receive benefits. The argument from Illinois is that the rules could take benefits from thousands of people.
"Due to the looseness in federal law, Illinois has grouped 101 out of 102 of its counties into one single geographic area, and had a blanket waiver for every single county but one from all work requirements in the food stamp program," says Scott Centorino, senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA). "That's despite an unemployment rate … that's low statewide in Illinois."
While liberal states will beg to differ, Centorino adds this is a "fairly modest requirement" from the Trump administration.
"One of the most persistent objections you hear is 'Well, what if somebody can't find paid work?' – and that is certainly a valid concern," he acknowledges, "but that's why the volunteerism element is there; and even with the volunteerism element, there are good-cause exemptions. The USDA actually changed parts of the proposed rule based on comments received."
But the bottom line, in Centorino's opinion, is that this is a debate that belongs in Congress and in the state houses – not in a federal district court.
"The substantive side is fairly weak, and the procedural side has a whole can of worms as well," Centorino explains. "Basically, their procedural argument is that stakeholders didn't have an opportunity to comment on this proposed rule and that there was no basis for saying that states were gaming the system."
But that argument doesn't make any sense, Centorino adds: "Because what else can you call what Illinois is doing – where they're bunching 101 out of 102 counties together as one geographic area – as anything other but gaming the system?"