After six years of waiving eligibility requirements for people on the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Florida is returning the safety-net program to normalcy by reinstating minimum work requirements for able-bodied individuals receiving entitlement payments.
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) requires healthy individuals without dependents to seek employment or job training as a condition of receiving SNAP benefits.
In 2012, the Obama administration created a waiver for qualifying states, removing the work requirements for food stamp recipients.
Joshua Archambault, a senior fellow with The Foundation for Government Accountability, says the waiver system created perverse economic incentives.
“Under a waiver, you don’t have to meet education requirements or part-time work requirements, so able-bodied adults can just stay on the program,” Archambault said. “That’s a problem. That’s why the waiver is so important. Just to understand the implications, the [removal of the] waiver does not just kick a bunch of people off. It says, ‘If you’re going to remain on the program as an able-bodied adult without kids, then you’ll have to meet some basic requirements in return for those benefits. Those activities, in return, are hopefully moving you toward being employed or more employable or getting the skills to become employed.”
Archambault says the system is trapping people, instead of helping them.
“The public rationale, for years, has been, ‘The economy is weak, and therefore we need to provide assistance,'” Archambault said. “But that rationale has been removed in most of these states as the economy has improved and the enrollment in these ‘counter-cyclical safety net programs’ hasn’t gone down, and therefore it has raised lots of questions about [whether the government is] trapping people in poverty.”
‘Principle of Reciprocity’
Rachel Sheffield, a policy analyst for The Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, says the numbers show the system is being exploited.
“We have calculated that in 2014 about $9.5 billion of food stamp money went to able-bodied adults without dependents,” Sheffield said. “Therefore, $9.5 billion of the $75 billion allotted for food stamp money went to able-bodied adults without dependents. It’s a significant amount. In 2014, there were 4.7 million able-bodied individuals receiving food stamps.”
Sheffield says PRWORA’s work requirements were included for a good reason.
“The principle is that there should be a work requirement with food stamps and that the able-bodied adults should be required to work, to be training for work, or to be looking for work in exchange for these benefits,” Sheffield said. “That then establishes the principle of reciprocity between the taxpayer, who is paying for the benefit, and the individual who is receiving the benefit. It promotes work and self-sufficiency, and work and self-sufficiency should be the goal for able-bodied adults on welfare.”
Luke Karnick ([email protected]) writes from Indianapolis, Indiana.
Lowell Gallaway, et al., “Why People Work: An Examination of Interstate Variations in Labor Force Participation,” Journal of Labor Research: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/why-people-work-examination-interstate-variations-labor-force-participation/