Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 6 2019
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — The Trump administration’s eligibility changes to the U.S. food stamp program will save taxpayers billions of dollars and bring more accountability to a hefty welfare system.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s final rule ends the waiver states have used to extend Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to able-bodied adults ages 18-49 to work at least part-time.
“We’re taking action to reform our SNAP program in order to restore the dignity of work to a sizeable segment of our population and be respectful to taxpayers who fund the program,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters.
Per usual, the headlines screamed, “Nearly 700,000 will lose food stamps with USDA work requirement change.”
But in an economy with historically low unemployment and rising wages at even entry-level positions, supporters of reform said there is no reason able-bodied adults cannot participate in the work force — particularly if they are asking the taxpayer to supplement their meals.
Current rules require beneficiaries to work at least 20 hours a week for more than three months over a 36-month period to qualify for food stamps. States have opted out in areas of high unemployment.
Those areas are fewer and farther between in the current robust economic expansion.
States may only waive the work requirements in areas with 6 percent unemployment or higher. The U.S. jobless rate was 3.6 percent in October.
“This is an important step in reforming welfare programs to help free capable individuals from government dependence and empower them to achieve the American Dream,” said U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbeulah). “I believe we should provide assistance to those who have fallen on hard times, but these work requirement waivers have been a part of an unfortunate trend of government laws and regulations that create disincentives for individuals to work.”
USDA notes that 2.9 million adults receiving SNAP benefits are able-bodied without dependents, and 2.1 million are not working.
The changes could save taxpayers more than $5 billion over the next five years the agency said.