Grocery stamps already have labor requirements.  Now GOP lawmakers want tougher ones.

Grocery stamps already have labor requirements. Now GOP lawmakers want tougher ones.

The Food Stamp program already provides job requirements for what the US government defines as “non-disabled adults without dependents” — in other words, younger workers who are not disabled and have no children or other dependents.

But a group of Republican lawmakers say stricter work requirements are needed to fill a gap and let more senior food stamp recipients work in exchange for their benefits.

Rep. Dusty Johnson, a Republican from South Dakota, and more than 20 other Republican lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday called the America Works Act that would end a waiver program that allows states to bypass work requirements for some of their residents. Currently, 18 states are using waivers that exempt residents from work requirements, lawmakers said in a statement.

The bill would also require more older workers to prove they have a job or are attending a training program in order to receive food stamps. Currently, able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 49 who don’t have children must work 20 hours a week or enroll in a work-training program to receive help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the official name for the Food Stamps program.

But the bill would increase that requirement for people up to the age of 65, which lawmakers say is consistent with Medicare, the health insurance program for Americans age 65 and older.

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Pre-pandemic data shows 1.4 million adults without dependents “reported gross income of zero dollars — meaning they didn’t work at all,” lawmakers said in the statement. That’s about 3% of the 42.6 million people who received food stamps in December, the latest available data from the US Department of Agriculture.

“Work is the best route out of poverty,” Johnson said in the statement. “Work requirements have proven effective, and those who can work should work.”

In a tweet, Johnson noted that his family received SNAP benefits as a child, adding that he was “a witness to the rewards of hard work.”

If we are serious about lifting people out of perpetual poverty, work should be encouraged.

To do this, I introduced the America Works Act.

As someone who grew up on SNAP benefits, I have witnessed the rewards of hard work. #AmericaWorks

— Rep. Dusty Johnson (@RepDustyJohnson) March 14, 2023

The push to add more work requirements comes at a difficult time for many low-income households as 32 states cut food stamp benefits this month in what some experts are calling a “hunger cliff.”

The cuts, which result in an average loss of $82 per person in monthly SNAP benefits, are expected to affect more than 30 million people receiving food stamps in those states, and as inflation remains painfully high and food costs plummet than 10% higher than a year earlier, according to the latest inflation data.

“Wrong Assumptions”

SNAP has come under frequent scrutiny from Republican lawmakers, who have proposed similar legislation in recent years to tighten work requirements for recipients. The Trump administration had also attempted to tighten labor requirements.

The latest proposal should be rejected, the Center on Budget and Policy Proposals (CBPP) said in a report on Wednesday. Most adults under 65 who receive SNAP benefits are already working or are temporarily between jobs, the left-leaning think tank found.

People with food stamps who aren’t working often care for children or elderly family members without pay, attend school, or are unemployed due to health problems, the CBPP said. Adding bureaucracy to qualify for food aid means some eligible people are likely to fall off the reels because of the added hurdles, according to the group.

“Justifications for work requirements rest on the false assumption that people who receive benefits do not work and need to be forced to do so,” the CBPP said. “These assumptions are rooted in stereotypes based on race, gender, disability status and class.”

The Republican bill is unlikely to pass as the Senate is controlled by Democrats. But the effort reflects continued pressure from GOP lawmakers to cut spending on benefit programs like food stamps.

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