How cruel are we?
The Agriculture Department is considering a policy change in the SNAP (Supplimental Nutrition Assistance Program) that would expose single adults to a harsh three-month time limit on food stamp benefits if they aren’t employed at least half-time or in a qualifying work or training program.
SNAP recipients in states that have few or no employment programs and fails to offer them a spot in a work or training program — which is the case in most states — or those who live in high-unemployment areas, will have their benefits cut off after three months, even if they are searching diligently for a job or working less than 20 hours a week.
Because this provision denies basic food assistance even to people who want to work and will accept any job or work program slot offered, it is effectively a severe time limit rather than a work requirement, as such requirements are commonly understood. This will help no one get out of poverty and will take food away from people who need assistance.
Action: Let’s stand indivisible with the most vulnerable members of our society and write a comment to protest this new policy.
Today is the FINAL DAY we can submit public comments objecting to this change here.
Sample written script: I object to the proposed SNAP policy changes that both restrict those unemployed or those not in a training program from receiving food stamps after 3 months and that alter current law to make it harder for states to exempt vulnerable individuals. A significant number of veterans, people with undiagnosed disabilities, and children aging out of the foster-care system will be severely impacted by these changes. Work requirements also unfairly punish people who are looking for work but cannot find it. The rules do not account for the availability of qualified education and training programs in communities which play a beneficial role in helping people find employment. Imposing harsher work rules would do little to move the long-term unemployed into the workforce.
Check out what other people are commenting here.
There are more talking points from the Food Research and Action Center here.
Work requirements in public assistance programs typically require people to look for work and accept any job or employment program slot that’s offered. But they don’t cut off people who are willing to work and looking for a job simply because they can’t find one.
Childless adults are a small, but highly vulnerable, segment of SNAP participants, accounting for 10 percent of all SNAP participants in fiscal year 2014. Along with areas with sluggish employment markets, many low-income childless adults face multiple challenges to independence and self-sufficiency, including homelessness, physical and mental health limitations, language barriers, unstable employment histories, and criminal records.
SNAP provides less than $5 a day in food benefits. Workers securing low-wage jobs often remain eligible for SNAP due to their low earnings.While participating in SNAP, childless adults have average incomes of 32 percent of the poverty line — the equivalent of about $3,900 per year for a single person in 2017.
Many of the individuals subject to the time limit struggle to find employment even in normal economic times. Those subject to this rule are extremely poor, tend to have limited education, and sometimes face barriers to work such as a criminal justice history or racial discrimination. Many have mental or physical limitations but don’t meet the strict standards for federal disability assistance. About a quarter have less than a high school education, and half have at most a high school diploma or GED. SNAP participants subject to the three-month cutoff are more likely than other SNAP participants to lack basic job skills like reading, writing, and basic mathematics, according to the Government Accountability Office. Other people who will struggle with the new requirements are able-bodied people who are facing personal problems or might even be mislabeled as able-bodied.
A detailed study of childless adults who were referred to a work experience program in Franklin County (Columbus), Ohio found that:
- Many have extremely unstable living situations, evidenced by residence in short-term shelters or with friends and family and limited telephone service.
- One-third have a mental or physical limitation, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental or learning disabilities, or physical injuries. Some of these disabilities, though not severe enough to qualify for federal disability benefits, may still limit a person’s ability to work more than 20 hours a week.
- Nearly one-quarter are non-custodial parents, and 13 percent are caregivers for a parent, relative, or friend.
- More than 40 percent lack access to reliable private or public transportation; 60 percent lack a valid driver’s license.
- Fifteen percent need supportive services like language interpretation or help with transportation to obtain employment.
- Nearly one-quarter have been dismissed from a job in the past and others have gaps in their employment records — both of which can deter potential employers. More than one-third have felony convictions, making it hard to find jobs and pass background checks.