In April 2018, President Donald Trump issued an executive order designed to reduce poverty and government dependence and promote employment and economic independence among Americans, in part by instructing relevant social welfare federal agencies to review and reform various regulations in that regard.
As such, the Agriculture Department took a hard look at the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps, and proposed certain changes to regulations that would achieve the goals set out in the president’s order.
That led to the issuance of a new rule by the USDA, Fox News reported, which will tighten work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) age 18-49 in SNAP by limiting how states can apply for and obtain waivers to avoid those work requirements.
Based on estimates from the USDA, the changes could impact up to 700,000 participants in SNAP and save taxpayers upwards of $5.5 billion over five years.
According to the final rule submitted by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, the law imposing work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents was first passed by Congress and implemented by the government in 1996.
It limited SNAP eligibility for such ABAWDs to only 3 months in a 36-month period, unless an individual worked part-time for 20 hours or was enrolled in school or a job training or workfare program.
Although those requirements were not changed by the new rule, they will now be enforced by reforming when and for how long states can be granted waivers from enforcing them on SNAP participants.
The 1996 law provided states with a means to obtain waivers from that requirement if it had an unemployment rate higher than 10 percent or insufficient jobs for the unemployed labor pool.
In practice, however, the insufficient jobs caveat for a waiver was quantified by a state with an average unemployment rate that was 20 percent higher than the national average, which these days could mean a rate as low as in the 4 percent range, given the national average is currently at around 3.6 percent.
The new rule has set a floor of 6 percent unemployment for states to be eligible for waivers, which are now only valid for one year before reapplication is required, and further has limited those waivers to specified geographical areas instead of being applicable state-wide.
In a Wednesday letter to state SNAP directors, it was explained that another change in the rule deals with separate discretionary state exemptions that previously could be carried over year-to-year if unused and accumulated over time. Now, those exemptions are limited and will expire after a certain time.
The rule was published in the Federal Register on Thursday and doesn’t actually go into effect until April 2020. The portion of the new rule dealing with the discretionary exemptions also won’t go into effect until October 2020, due to fiscal year concerns.
Democrats have immediately criticized the new rule as being cruel and heartless and accused the Trump administration of literally stealing food out of people’s mouths, which isn’t the case.
All this rule does is compel states to do a better job of enforcing a law that was already on the books. It is worth noting that the USDA has reached out to the states and offered whatever assistance necessary for compliance and for ensuring that SNAP participants can meet the requirements to remain in the program.
This reform is a good step toward promoting more self-reliance among Americans and weaning them off of government dependence by limiting how long able-bodied individuals can be on the program without putting forth any sort of effort to improve their situation. Those who are truly in need will still be able to get the necessary help to get by.
In the meantime, government waste, fraud and abuse will be reduced, taxpayer money will be saved, and more Americans will enter the workforce and become responsible and productive members of society.
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