New rules would require almost 700,000 Americans to work for their food stamp benefit
The Trump administration unveiled a final rule Wednesday that will require more food stamp recipients to work in order to receive benefits.
The new requirement limits states’ ability to waive existing work mandates and could result in 688,000 people losing assistance, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
The move is one of three Trump administration efforts to overhaul the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, as the food stamp program is formally known.
Another proposed regulation, which would tighten the rules governing who qualifies for aid, could end up stripping more than 3 million people of their benefits and leave nearly 500,000 children without access to free school meals. The third proposal would change how allowances for utility expenses are calculated, which would have a mixed impact. The agency is still working on the latter two proposals.
The proposed regulations would have decreased the number of people on food stamps by 3.7 million had they been implemented last year, according to an Urban Institute report issued last month. More than 36 million Americans currently receive SNAP benefits.
Under the proposed version of the work requirement rule, the USDA had estimated that about 750,000 recipients would lose benefits. It wasn’t immediately clear why the final rule is expected to affect fewer people.
The final rule is the administration’s latest initiative to impose work requirements in government assistance programs. Last year, in an unprecedented move, it started allowing states to mandate that Medicaid recipients find employment. That effort has largely been stymied by a federal district court judge, who has halted it in three states.
The food stamp program, however, already requires non-disabled, working-age adults without dependents to have jobs. They can only receive benefits for three months out of every 36-month period unless they are working or participating in training programs 20 hours a week.
There were 2.9 million of these recipients in 2018 and nearly 74% of them were not employed, according to the agency.
Currently, states can waive the work requirement for areas where unemployment is at least 10% or there is an insufficient number of jobs, as defined by the Department of Labor.
The new rule would make it harder for states to receive those waivers by tightening the definition of areas where there are insufficient jobs, narrowing the geographic areas of waivers and limiting their duration, among other provisions.
“Now, in the midst of the strongest economy in a generation, we need everyone who can work, to work,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, citing the low 3.6% national unemployment rate. “This rule lays the groundwork for the expectation that able-bodied Americans re-enter the workforce where there are currently more job openings than people to fill them.”
SNAP benefits for working families with children receive approximately $392 a month. As the name states the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is not designed to be an entire food budget, and is only to supplement an existing budget. The amount also varies by state, for example, a family of 4 with two minor children in Oregon typically receives over $700 a month which is well above the national average. And they are eligible for additional assistance with food through WIC for any child under the age of five. Which can push the total monthly food assistance to over a $1,000 a month.
The amount of SNAP assistance climbed dramatically during the last recession, but numbers have been slow to fall despite historically low unemployment numbers. This new rule helps to push those that are able-bodied and able to work to get out there and stand on their own two feet rather than letting taxpayers continue to pay for their lifestyle choices.
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