The Trump Administration is reportedly planning to limit the number of waivers each state can issue in regards to waiving work requirements for food stamp recipients. If this comes to pass, around 750,000 people would cease being eligible for the program or at most would be able to benefit from it for just 3 months out of 3 years, according to information from the Department of Agriculture.
Though some people believe that eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is dependent on not having a job, the truth is actually the opposite and without a waiver, year-round participation in the program has requirements that demand participants either to be working, or to be in some sort of training program for workers. Many thousands of SNAP recipients in various years have been working people, oftentimes working people who don’t receive the hours they need to be able to make a dignified living without the assistance of programs like SNAP.
People who receive SNAP benefits and who don’t work very often have a limitation of some sort that makes it hard for them to work, such as not having a high school degree, suffering from some sort of physical or mental condition that affects their ability to work, or not having reliable transportation. States have the ability to issue waivers that would waive these requirements in order to be able to better assist the people, families and communities that would be the most endangered if forced to go without SNAP or if they lost the program’s benefits.
Past attempts at changing current requirements for SNAP and making them stricter have included efforts to raise the age at which SNAP recipients age out of the work requirements from 49 to 59, and attempts to increase the state unemployment rate required to receive exemptions to seven percent. That percentage was higher than the highest state unemployment rate in Alaska, and was just over six percent at the time in December 2018, and thus would have rendered it so that no state was able to receive exemptions on this particular basis.
This isn’t the only potential change coming to the program either. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) is seeking to redefine “variety” so that stores that take food stamps can more easily meet the requirements set forth by legislation and policies that affect what can be purchased through the program, a task which has been complicated and even stymied by legislation passed through Congress like the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017.
If modified as the USDA is suggesting, thousands of stores would be able to meet requirements that they previously couldn’t as they currently stand. The specific change needed would overturn a definition of variety that makes it so that different kinds of food from the same species do not count as two separate items. Changing this would increase the number of stores in compliance with FNS policies dramatically. An article by “Convenience Store News” gives the examples of bacon and sliced ham counting as two items under the proposed definition of variety, but not under the current definition.