House Republicans Unveil Bill With Strict Work Requirements for Food Stamp Recipients
by Becky Loggia
House Republicans revealed a new bill on Thursday that would tighten work requirements for low-income Americans who receive food stamps. According to Politico, the act is part of the GOP welfare overhaul and has the potential to “derail” the legislation as the proposed changes would have far-reaching effects not only for the rural economy and those that rely on food stamps but on food production and the environment.
In order to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, adults aged 18-59 would have to put in hours at either a job, volunteer work or participate in workforce training, for a minimum of 20 hours per week, along with other restrictions when it came down to farm-goods and production.
“SNAP provides an important safety net for many Americans, but I want it to be an on-ramp to success, not a lifestyle for work-capable adult,” said Congressman Ralph Abraham. “The new Farm Bill makes reasonable and streamlined changes to eligibility requirements that will result in more adults who are ready for the workforce,” he added.
Abraham stated that the bill would ease the American people from a “cycle of poverty” and make them able to climb the “economic ladder” of the U.S. If the bill is passed, anywhere from five to seven million food stamp recipients would have to adhere to these stricter requirements — a proposition that many Democrats oppose. Just last month, Democrat lawmakers broke off talks with Chairman Mike Conaway in a heated debate over whether or not the policy would kick people off of SNAP and
further into poverty.
“The GOP’s ‘workforce requirements’ are nothing but a cynical Trojan Horse to take away SNAP from millions of hungry families,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi has been one of many lawmakers on Capitol Hill who urged Democrats to oppose the “disastrous” bill after it was proposed Thursday. However, questions still remain about whether or not the bill will receive votes from the Freedom Caucus, whose members tend to support farm-subsidy and SNAP cuts, and who have remained silent on the issue thus far. A spokesman for the House conservatives said that lawmakers are still looking over the bill.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed a bill on Tuesday that was similar to the one circulating Washington that places stricter requirements on “able-bodied” adults when it comes to food stamps and the SNAP program. According to the bill, an “able-bodied” adult is anyone from 18 to 49 who is not pregnant, disabled and has no dependents or military status.
Supporters of the bill say it will help prevent certain recipients from abusing the system and force people to start working for a living, those who oppose it say it will force more Americans into poverty. “The bill will make it much more difficult for thousands of West Virginians to get the food assistance they need when times are tough,” said Seth DiStefano, who is the director of policy for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
“Data from the state’s pilot program showed work requirements did not increase workforce participation,” Stefano added. “The bill doubles down on a failed policy at the expense of some of the most vulnerable West Virginians.”