Approximately 1 million low-income residents in 40 states may be denied their government food stamps if they fail to meet work requirements which are being reinstated due to the growing economy.
State legislators, none of whom will be personally affected by this rule, believe declining unemployment is a good excuse to get these freeloaders off their roles. They hasten to add this law only applies to able-bodied persons between 18 and 50 who have no minor children or dependents at home.
To qualify for SNAP benefits, a resident must work or volunteer, or attend educational or job training classes for a minimum of 80 hours a month. If they fail to meet these requirements, the person will be cut off after three months, unless they are granted a waiver. Most states were granted waivers during the recession when unemployment surged.
Terry Work, of Tennessee, says her 27-year-old deaf son was denied benefits, implying the man is considered able-bodied. In Missouri, Joe Heflin lost his stamps (his only source of income) as well. He lost his steady job five years ago after an injury with a long recovery period left him mentally-disabled. He commented while waiting in line at a food pantry:
I think it’s a crummy deal. I think they ought to look into individuals more, or at least hear them out…I depend on it, you know, to eat.”
According to the law’s sponsor, Sen. David Sater, a Missouri Republican:
We were seeing a lot of people who were receiving food stamps who weren’t even trying to get a job. I know in my area you can find a temporary job for 20 hours [a week] fairly easily. It just didn’t seem right to me to have somebody doing nothing and receiving food stamps.”
North Carolina’s GOP legislature implemented a law barring anyone from seeking waivers unless there is a natural disaster. State Sen. Ralph Hise said the state was doing a disservice to the unemployed by providing them long-term food aid.
People are developing gaps on their resumes, and it’s actually making it harder for individuals to ultimately find employment.”
Advocates against the bill counter that many adults have severe obstacles when seeking work, such as criminal records, disabilities, poor education or lack of a driver’s license.
According to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the loss of this food assistance, which averages approximately $150 to $170 per person per month for this group, will cause serious hardship among many. USDA data show that the individuals likely to be cut off by the three-month limit have an average monthly income of approximately 17 percent below the poverty line, and they typically qualify for no other income support.
The 1996 welfare reform law was originally sponsored by former Rep. John Kasich, now Governor of Ohio and Republican candidate for president. It was signed by President Bill Clinton, who singled out this exclusion rule as one of the bill’s most harmful provisions and called for it to be substantially changed.