‘Our safety-net is catching people when they fall, but it’s doing little to help them get back on their feet…’
(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) The Republican-controlled House and Senate failed to pass work requirements for Americans collecting food stamps in this year’s farm bill, which appropriates money to programs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
But the Trump administration wants to encourage American welfare recipients to find employment, so the USDA has proposed a new rule to strengthen work requirements for able-bodied adults, the Associated Press reported.
The rule will affect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program known as SNAP.
USDA rules currently limit SNAP recipients to three months of benefits for every three-year period if they do not work at least 20 hours per week.
However, when states have an unemployment rate that is 20 percent above the national average, they can apply for a federal waiver. As the current national unemployment rate is at 4 percent, this means states with a 5 percent unemployment rate can apply for federal waivers, exempting SNAP recipients from working requirements.
Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., described the extent of able-bodied SNAP recipients failing to work.
“Our safety-net is catching people when they fall, but it’s doing little to help them get back on their feet,” Davis said. “We have employers who can’t fill jobs, yet 74 percent of able-bodied adults without dependents on SNAP are not working.”
Davis said the proposed rule is in keeping with the spirit of the 1996 law, “which was passed in a divided government to help more individuals find a good-paying job and become less reliant on government assistance.”
States can also distribute SNAP benefits to 15 percent of their able-bodied adult population without a waiver, regardless of whether recipients fulfill the work requirements. If states do not hand out benefits to 15 percent of their citizens, then they can “stockpile” them for a rainy day.
The new rule proposed by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue would increase the unemployment rate for waiver eligibility to 7 percent. It would also prevent “stockpiling” benefits.
“The president has directed me to propose regulatory reforms to ensure those who are able to work do so in exchange for their benefits,” Perdue said on Wednesday, AP reported.
Perdue said the Agriculture Department would have preferred if the reforms to the SNAP program came through Congress.
“However, these regulatory changes by the USDA will save hardworking taxpayers $15 billion over 10 years and give President Trump comfort enough to support a farm bill he might otherwise have opposed,” he added.