The debate over work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program continues in Washington, D.C.
On Feb. 28, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue testified before a U.S. Senate committee, defending the USDA proposal to move able-bodied recipients off SNAP benefits.
“We think the purpose is to help people move to independency… We should help people when they are down but that should not be interminably,” Perdue testified. “…You all also provided for a 12% cushion for states that they could use for any purpose. But, we do not believe in states where unemployment is 4% that ABAWDs should be able to stay on food assistance interminably.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, questioned Perdue on the SNAP changes.
“Mr. Secretary, in the Farm Bill that the President signed into law, Congress decided not to make harmful changes to nutrition assistance. Unfortunately, this administration has proposed a partisan rule that makes changes to SNAP that were rejected by Congress and would take food assistance away from Americans struggling to find steady work,” the Michigan Democrat said. “This proposal is a blatant run around the law that would leave families hungry while doing nothing to connect people to long-term employment.”
Here’s the background.
Stricter work requirements for participation in SNAP were supported by President Trump and included in the House version of the Farm Bill, but didn’t make it into the final version of the bill signed by the president on Dec. 21.
Perdue announced a proposed rule on Dec. 20 to move able-bodied recipients of SNAP off the program.
The proposed rule was published Feb. 1, 2019, in the Federal Register. Comments must be received on or before April 2, 2019.
What’s in the proposed rule?
Perdue says the proposed rule focuses on work-related program requirements for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) and would apply to non-disabled people, between the ages of 18 and 49, with no dependents. The rule would not apply to the elderly, the disabled, or pregnant women. Those who are eligible to receive SNAP – including the underemployed – would still qualify.
What do those who are opposed to the rule say?
Politico reports Democrats and anti-hunger advocates argue curbing the waivers will harm those with a low income who might be considered able-bodied, but who also struggle with significant barriers to work, such as homelessness, lack of transportation, mental health issues or addiction recovery.
Commentary on the issue:
Work requirements have been part of SNAP since 1996, the problem is that the requirements don’t work the way they should. – Rep. Collin Peterson Op-ed
A provision of SNAP law limits 18-through-49-year-olds to three months of SNAP benefits (in months that they’re not employed at least 20 hours a week) out of every three years. Participation in a work or training program counts toward fulfilling this requirement, but states aren’t required to provide work or training slots to these individuals — and most states don’t. In addition, searching for a job does not count toward meeting the requirement. If you can’t find a 20-hour-a-week job, on your own, you’re cut off SNAP. – Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
The Trump administration’s rule change would prevent states from abusing taxpayer dollars by no longer allowing them to submit waivers. – Watchdog.org