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Emerging Story: House Republicans Propose Bill That Will Impose Strict Work Requirements For Recipients Of Food Stamps

Credit: Vanity Fair

Two dozen House Republicans proposed legislation that would make sure that long-term food stamp recipients are working at least part-time and ending the flexibility that has allowed several states and territories to waive these work requirements for people who use Supplemental Nutrition Assitance Program (SNAP).

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The America Works Act, from Rep. Dusty Johnson, (R-SD), would also expand the definition of “able-bodied adults without dependents,” so that most childless people ages 18-65 would have to work part-time or receive work training to receive SNAP benefits longer than three months. The age range is currently 18-49.

“Work is the best pathway out of poverty,” Johnson said. “Work requirements have proven to be effective, and people who can work should work. With more than 11 million open jobs, there are plenty of opportunities for SNAP recipients to escape poverty and build a better life.”

Fox News reported:

Johnson said 18 states currently waive the work requirement for SNAP benefits, and even before the COVID pandemic, more than 1.3 million able-bodied adults were long-term recipients of SNAP benefits even though they did not work at all. A statement on the bill from Johnson’s office said too many states “abuse” these waivers.

Many of the largest Democrat-run states are currently getting total waivers from the SNAP work requirements, such as California, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey. Other states and regions with that same waiver are Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Guam, Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington state.

Other states that have regional exemptions are Colorado, Kentucky, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, and Oregon.

The bill aims to curb abuse of the system by preventing states from carrying over work expeditions year after year. Johnson’s statement said that this current flexibility leads to “abuses of the law,” and has allowed up to 12% of state caseloads to be exempted from work requirements.

The bill also repeals part of a 2008 law that allows states to seek a waiver from the work requirement if it determines that the state does not have enough jobs to employ people using SNAP. 

The bill does however allow states to seek those waivers when they have an unemployment rate of 10% or more.

Under Johnson’s bill, all people able to work will be required to work to receive SNAP benefits beyond three months unless they are under 18, older than 65, have a medical condition that prevents them from working, are a parent or guardian of a child under 7 or are pregnant.

An aide to Johnson said they are hoping to get the legislation attached to the Farm Bill this year.

Politico reported:

Johnson hopes his proposal will be folded into the upcoming farm bill, which lawmakers will draft later this year, but it will face stiff resistance in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Other GOP lawmakers are now pressing for similar work requirements to be part of any deal on the debt limit between the White House and the House GOP. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) reintroduced a bill in January that would raise the age for food assistance work requirements by a decade to 59.

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