Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plans to strengthen existing work requirements for work-capable adults in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps). The rule change could affect the 59 Pennsylvania counties where SNAP work requirements are currently waived.
“Pennsylvania is a perfect example of why this change is necessary,” commented Elizabeth Stelle, director of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation. “Most Pennsylvania counties sidestep existing food stamp work requirements, meaning work-capable beneficiaries are not encouraged to find jobs and become independent. Strengthening these rules will help people take advantage of our growing economy and preserve resources for those who need them most.”
The rule change would limit the Department of Human Services to requesting work waivers for counties and municipalities with unemployment rates above 7 percent. Currently, states and counties with unemployment rates 20 percent higher than a rolling average of the national rate are eligible to be exempted. Under this definition, counties that today have an unemployment rate of less than 5 percent—a historically low figure—are consider “high unemployment.”
The map below shows where work requirements are waived for able-bodied adults in the food stamp program.
Some states have already shown the benefits of work requirements. For example, when Kansas and Maine strengthened food stamp work requirements, beneficiaries in those programs saw their incomes more than double. Overall, food stamp enrollment for healthy adults dropped by 75 percent in Kansas and 80 percent in Maine after reforms were implemented.
Nationally, 79 percent of voters support work requirements for healthy adults on food stamps.
Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact John Bouder at 570-490-1042 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.
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