Food Stamp Enrollment Dropping Amid Work Regulations

New state regulations on SNAP confirms what we already know: the number of people on food stamps drop when work requirements are added.

Food stamp usage mushroomed during the Obama era. Part of his 2009 stimulus package, the 44th president loosened rules on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and allowed states to waive the work requirements for able-bodied adults. Enrollment peaked in 2013 at around 48 million people on the program.

However, states across the country are now looking towards entitlement reform and have added work requirements back for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) between the ages of 18 to 49. The new rules – implemented by different state governments – are showing similar results.

Thirteen counties in Alabama began 2017 by requiring all ABAWDs to either find a job or go into work training if they wanted to keep receiving SNAP benefits. The numbers speak for themselves: from January to May, the number of recipients fell from 5,538 to 831 – an 85 percent drop.

A select number of counties in Georgia took the same approach to food stamp reform. The Georgia Public Policy Foundation reported a 58 percent drop in adults receiving benefits. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found a 62 percent drop in another 21 counties that put work requirements back into place.

The success can also be seen in New England, too. Paul LePage, the Republican governor of Maine, made clear in 2014 that able-bodied adults would have to work, perform community service or participate 20 hours a week in a work program to stay on SNAP. Participation in the program declined by over 14 percent – 235,771 in January 2014 to 201,557 exactly one year later.

Not only did Kansas see a 75 percent drop in food stamp usage after enforcing work requirements in 2013 – almost 60 percent of former recipients found work within a year and their incomes rose by an average of 127 percent a year.

These are serious examples of success. The results also show – despite what liberal welfare advocates claim – that work requirements are beneficial to the poor. These reforms get people off the couch and into a stable job. You are doing nothing for the needy by incentivizing them to stay on welfare.

Federal lawmakers have taken notice of the successes at the state level and want to see the same reforms happen in Washington. Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Jim Jordan have introduced legislation that would require ABAWDs to participate in “work activation” programs to remain eligible for SNAP benefits.

If passed, such a rule could save American taxpayers billions a year.


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Jason Hopkins

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