Washington News Bureau

Debt limit deal changes work requirements for SNAP benefits

WASHINGTON — The debt limit deal passed in Congress changes the work requirements for some adults receiving federal food assistance.

The changes apply to some older recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

Currently, most able-bodied adults without dependents ages 18-49 who receive SNAP benefits are required to show proof of at least 80 hours of work a month or participation in a training program.

The changes will gradually raise that age requirement until age 54.

“We don’t think it’s appropriate to connect a basic human right like food with this work documenting requirement, but it also doesn’t make sense in our labor market,” said Ellen Vollinger, SNAP Director at the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). “If they’re having trouble getting sufficient hours of work, we know that’s not something that gets cured by taking food away from them. That has more to do with the state of the labor market, with jobs policies, perhaps with skills training.”

Vollinger argues the restrictions are cruel and should be eliminated, not expanded.

“When people lose their benefits, it does not help them find a job,” said Vollinger. “It just makes thing much tougher for them.”

Conservatives, meanwhile, argue it’s a change that would benefit vulnerable populations.

“It’s going to prompt people toward greater self-support,” said Robert Rector, a Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation. “No one is talking about cutting benefits off and kicking people into the streets. We’re simply going to say if you need this assistance, we are here to give it you, but we expect you to do something modest in exchange for the aide that we give you.”

There are exemptions to the new SNAP work requirements including for people experiencing homelessness, veterans and young adults who recently left foster care.

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