Bipartisan federal welfare reform in 1996 promoted independence by keeping people engaged in the workforce. Healthy adults were limited to 3 months of cash assistance benefits unless they worked 20 hours a week, received job training or education, or volunteered. Shortly after the reforms were enacted, federal and state officials began to unravel work requirements by approving waivers. The use of waivers accelerated after the Great Recession. In recent years, states have rediscovered the personal and economic benefits of requiring work for healthy adults.
In Kansas, 75 percent of recipients left food stamps after the state re-established work requirements. Almost half of those leaving the program found work in 3 months in hundreds of different industries. One year later, these adults saw their incomes increase 127 percent, more than offsetting the loss of food stamps.
In Maine, the number of healthy adults on food stamps dropped by an astounding 90 percent. Those who left the program right away saw their income grow 114 percent in one year.
There are nearly 535,000 fewer people dependent on food stamps in Florida today than just a year and a half ago, largely due to the power of work requirements.
Based upon these experiences, food stamp work requirements could put between 80,000 and 100,000 Pennsylvanians back to work. Pennsylvanians leaving food stamps could see between $175 million and $210 million in higher wages. And the state would experience $6 to $7 million a year in additional state income taxes.