President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would require able-bodied food stamp recipients to work as a requirement for benefit eligibility. Work-for-welfare was established via the welfare reforms under President Bill Clinton, but such requirements were suspended by Barack Obama due to the Great Recession, and it was up to the states to individually re-implement work requirements for benefits.
Those states that have put work requirements back into effect have seen tremendous dividends paid back to taxpayers.
One such case we reported on involved Kansas, where before the state instituted a work requirement, 93 percent of food stamp recipients were in poverty, with 84 percent in severe poverty. Few of the food stamp recipients claimed any income, and only 21 percent were working at all. After reform, forty percent of the individuals who left the food stamp ranks found employment within three months, and about 60 percent found employment within a year. They saw an average income increase of 127 percent. Half of those who left the rolls and are working have earnings above the poverty level.
Alabama is making headlines now as the latest state to show success after requiring work for welfare. According to Alabama.com:
Thirteen previously exempted Alabama counties saw an 85 percent drop in food stamp participation after work requirements were put in place on Jan. 1, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources.
The counties had been exempt from a change that limited able-bodied adults without dependents to three months of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits within a three-year time frame unless they were working or participating in an approved training program.
During the economic downturn of 2011-2013, several states – including Alabama – waived the SNAP work requirements in response to high unemployment. It was re-instituted for 54 counties on Jan. 1, 2016 and for the remaining 13 on Jan. 1, 2017. Ending the exemption has dramatically cut the number of SNAP recipients in the counties.
As of Jan. 1, 2017, there were 13,663 able-bodied adults without dependents receiving food stamps statewide. That number dropped to 7,483 by May 1, 2017. Among the 13 counties, there were 5,538 adults ages 18-50 without dependents receiving food stamps as of Jan. 1, 2017. That number dropped to 831 – a decline of about 85 percent – by May 1, 2017.
Nationwide, there are 44 million people on food stamps, at a cost of $71 billion per year. NPR says the problem with Trump’s plan is the majority of food stamp recipients already work. However, read the fine print, and by “majority” they mean “many people (44 percent) who rely on SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as food stamps is now known — have at least one person in the family working,” and that “when it comes to families on SNAP with kids, a majority — 55 percent — are bringing home wages, according to USDA.”
Clearly, there’s a heck of a lot of room for improvement, and it’ll save billions for the taxpayers in the process.