Government Watch / Politics

It’s Time to Link Work and Food Stamps Again


President Joe Biden has touted the fact that the U.S. unemployment rate now stands at a half-century low of 3.4%. Despite the historically tight labor market, his administration’s actions have nullified work requirements for millions of food stamp recipients and boosted their incentive to remain on the sidelines.

As Congress seeks to rein in federal spending during debt ceiling negotiations, restoring work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program should be at the top of the list.

Federal law requires that nondisabled recipients between the ages of 18 and 49 — who do not have children — must work or volunteer at least 80 hours per month in order to maintain SNAP benefits. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress justifiably suspended these work requirements as economic activity was shut down and unemployment soared to 14.7%.

But because almost three years later the Biden administration has failed to end the public health emergency — keeping it in place until May 11 — work requirements are still not being enforced at a time when workers are needed more than ever.

However, ending the public health emergency will not fully solve the problem. That’s because 18 states and territories containing 44% of the food stamp caseload have waivers in place that would prevent work requirements from taking effect even if the public health emergency ended today. These waivers are intended to protect beneficiaries when jobs are hard to find in a particular area, but their implementation suffers from major loopholes.

States qualify for waivers if their unemployment rates are just modestly higher than the national average — which has now reached a 54-year low — and they are calculated using out-of-date employment data. As a result, states with very low unemployment rates are currently covered by waivers, such as New Jersey (3.4%), Pennsylvania (3.9%), California (4.1%) and New York (4.3%). Among all states with work requirement waivers, Nevada is the only one with an unemployment rate above 5%.

The fact that work requirements are not being enforced when the national unemployment rate is the lowest in over a half a century defies economic logic. Economists frequently highlight the importance of tying the generosity of government assistance programs to the state of the economy. But that doesn’t just mean expanding generosity when jobs are hard to find. It also means restricting generosity when jobs are easier to come by.

There are two additional problems with suspending work requirements that makes restoring them especially urgent now.

The first problem is the cost of not enforcing work requirements. In 2021, the Biden administration — for the first time in 45 years — increased the real value of food stamp benefits by executive fiat, increasing the cost of the food stamp program by $20 billion per year. To make matters worse, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration’s analysis supporting the increase was rushed, lacked transparency and failed to meet the usual standards for external review.

Working-age adults without disabilities or children drew $5.6 billion annually in food stamp benefits prior to the pandemic. Their contribution to total food stamp spending today is likely much higher, since food stamp caseloads have risen and benefit amounts are higher. Reinstating work requirements would reduce program costs as more of these recipients would go to work and thereby reduce their benefit amount, or drop off the program altogether. These savings would contribute to efforts to reduce the budget at a time of intense negotiation over the need to raise the debt limit.

The second problem with suspended work requirements is its interference with the Fed’s goal of stemming inflation without spurring a painful recession. The unrelenting worker shortage puts pressure on the Fed to continue raising interest rates to cool the economy. Failing to require work of SNAP recipients, especially after Biden’s benefit increase, is making the Fed’s job harder by paying people to stay on the sidelines. That harms the overall economy as well as the individuals who remain disconnected from the benefits of work.

Efforts to restore work requirements to all states should start by immediately ending the public health emergency that suspended work requirements nationwide. Congress should then fix the loopholes for states that request waivers on account of local economic conditions. For example, Congress could require a state unemployment rate to reach at least 6% before it can potentially qualify for a waiver. This would closely follow the conditions necessary to trigger extended unemployment insurance benefits during periods of high unemployment, as well as a Trump-era reform to the food stamp program that was ultimately upended by the pandemic.

There has never been a better time to apply food stamp work requirements to working age adults without disabilities or children. The program’s cost has already been unilaterally inflated by the Biden administration, and the lack of work requirements is making the Fed’s job of reducing inflation harder. In the search for ways to cut federal spending and alleviate inflation, restoring food stamp work requirements in all states is a no-brainer.

Reprinted with Permission from - AEI by - Kevin Corinth

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Bob Nowicki
3 months ago

I think the government should not be used as a charity. If people borrow from the government on any program they have not earned-they need to pay it back. The “loan” is to get you back on your feet. Yes there should be some exceptions, but they should be limited and provable. This way 1. People may be less likely to take money and go to work.
2. The pay back they must do goes to help the next people who have a set back.

4 days ago
Reply to  Bob Nowicki

I hope catastrophic hardship finds you,but when is does don’t apply for SNAP or any help,just go starve.

Rob citizenship
3 months ago

Food assistance for people who are unable to provide for themselves should be an uncomplicated matter to consider. It pivots around the ability people have to provide for themselves. This matter can become complicated if the discussion involves thinking of people as types, instead of individuals. Circumstances can vary as to why some people can or cannot provide for themselves. I have been thinking as a Conservative since the 1970’s , I believe in limited government and I believe that people should provide for themselves if they can. Some people want to provide for themselves , but they may be in a situation where the businesses in their area do not want to hire them because they lack skills, they lack education . It would be in the interest of fairness to help those people with the basic necessities ,such as food, until they can provide for themselves. The requirement would be in order to qualify for food assistance each month they would need to show proof that they are doing something in connection with education or training and there would be a limit for how long the assistance would be available. For example it could be four years for an individual, maybe eight years for a family. I believe that being fair in this sense does not conflict with Conservative values , and it is in keeping with the teachings of Christ .

William Boylan
3 months ago

The Biden administration, along with its cohorts, are deliberately making more people dependent on government programs for the purpose of buying votes for Democrats.

3 months ago
Reply to  William Boylan


3 months ago

Maybe there are those who need these benefits but the program was never made to be a permanent benefit, which is why re-evaluation has to occur to check on the current status. If this was done, fewer people would abuse the program–and it would help if becoming self-sufficient is encouraged versus becoming more dependent on getting these benefits. But that is also a problem when those who achieve self-sufficient work can’t afford to basic needs as well. Benefits received should not be higher than what one can achieve by working for pay.Housing costs should not be the bulk of one’s income period.

3 months ago
Reply to  MariaRose

Very good comment Maria Rose , what you wrote makes sense, it is fair and I believe it should be the standard for programs that provide basic necessities. What I believe is that these matters need to keep in mind that there are many different sets of circumstances people can be faced with it, so the idea of periodic re – evaluation is important. Your sentiment on housing costs should be part of any plan that has the goal of helping people to be able to provide for themselves and actually live a productive life , and be able to save some of their income, help others in need and contribute to society. In the spirit of respect for Faith , Family and Freedom.

Rob citizenship
3 months ago
Reply to  itizeonship

The Name got into some sort of accident , letters missing — should be Rob citizenship.

Rob citizenship
3 months ago
Reply to  MariaRose

To Maria Rose ,the name on the reply / comment sent earlier should be Rob citizenship , something happened during a minor grammatical error correction and it turned into — itizeonship ( ? ) Distraction of some sort at the root of the error. Sincerely, Rob citizenship

William Hodge
3 months ago

In addition to the walking baby factories out there, that workers have to pay for and the animals that are running loose that workers have to pay for many times over it’s no wonder that the actual workers have so little left for themselves. It’s time to pay to play folks.

Tim Toroian
3 months ago

!!!!!!!!!!! but not if you’re a communist and want people dependent on the regime.

William Boylan
3 months ago
Reply to  Tim Toroian


3 months ago

I have had to work the last 50 years to buy my groceries and SNAP groceries for others. I’m tired. Time for the beggars to go to work and pay for my groceries.

anna hubert
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeri

It was introduced to create dependency and the voting base That it destroys the person and the community is of no importance As long as it serves the purpose all is well

3 months ago

otherwise, Venezuela offers “free-bees” and the walk from here is not bad.

3 months ago

Food for nothing and not having to work is all part of the Marxist liberal Democrat agenda. You Must Destroy the nuclear family and make everybody dependent on the government. Everybody will be equally unhappy. But don’t worry they are a promising equality and outcomes for everyone. How’s that going to work see my previous sentence nobody will have anything, and the beatings will continue until morale improves. Remember to vote Marxist

Lonnie E Morgan
3 months ago

We have laid out a life plan that allows no one to lose and winners to not prosper believing this will ensure fairness when it only results in despair.
Unemployment policies place a high barrier for job holders to stay on the job long enough to pass probation and get a salary increase. A switchover to loan status when someone gets a job and reduce to zero payments in a year (unless requested sooner by employee) maintains a cash flow until cash in catches up to cash going out.

David Millikan
3 months ago

Work and Food Stamps must be reinstated.
President Trump had it right when he implemented it. More people were working and less people on Food Stamps and people were happy with themselves because they were able to find better jobs since they were motivated and didn’t have to depend on the government which is the American way.
It also saved taxpayers $Billions.
Instead, DICTATOR Beijing biden
ends it for his hatred of anything President Trump did that helped Americans and so he played politics to appease his Communist comrades.

3 months ago

When deciding benefits, the number of meals children are receiving free at school needs to be taken into consideration. And we need to go back to commodities…milk, cheese, cereal, etc. There is no effort made to be sure the money is being spent wisely on food for the children as touted so don’t give money. There was nothing wrong with food stamps either…if they were embarrassed to use them, the answer is to get a job. And don’t say you can’t because you have kids…most women have kids nowadays and also work. I’m sick of excuses to take my money to give to those who lounge for a living.

joe mchugh
3 months ago

Link work and welfare support? Um, ….. Exactly how would that idea be enforced?

Consider this scenario: Young single adults are informed that they must seek employment, or that they must at least work as a volunteer in order to get taxpayer support. Such a man, or woman merely needs to appear at places that need workers, and tell the interviewer the following:
“I abuse drugs, and I tend to be late to report for work. I also have anger management issues and more often than not, resort to violence when anyone tries to correct my non-productive habits.
By the way, I like to take things to sell for money to get drugs. If you decline to hire me, the welfare
agent wants your signature to verify that I visited your stinking office.”

Work fare? What a joke!

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