The Leaflet: In a Thriving Economy, Work Requirements Work

Published January 18, 2019

New research confirms that work requirements for food stamps do, in fact, work. The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) report finds that since Arkansas implemented work requirements for the state’s food stamp program in 2016, enrollment of non-pregnant, non-elderly, abled-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) dropped 70 percent within a year.  

In fact, ABAWDs who sought work instead of welfare increased their incomes126 percent on average within a year of leaving the food stamp program. The report features several inspirational stories of Arkansans who were able to make more than $40,000 within a year, more than double their county’s median earnings.   

Even better, all Arkansans, even those not on food stamps, have benefited from this reform. Taxpayers are experiencing estimated savings of $28 million per year since 2016, freeing up funds that can pay for high priority needs. The state’s tax revenue has also risen by more than $2.3 million because former recipients are paying more income and sales taxes. 

The food stamps program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), reached peak enrollment and cost during the Great Recession. In 2013, its worst year, more than 47 million Americans relied on Uncle Sam to purchase groceries at a public cost of nearly $80 billion.  

Under federal law, ABAWDs must work, train, or volunteer at least 20 hours per week to obtain benefits. These adults are supposed to be removed from food stamp rolls if they fail to meet the work requirements for more than three consecutive months. However, the Obama administration allowed states to waive the three-month limit, which allowed ABAWDs to receive benefits without work indefinitely. Over the past five yearsArkansas and 16 other states have removed these time limit waivers and/or implemented work requirements because of the thriving economy and a general distaste for government dependence.  

Similar to Arkansas, Kansas and Maine experienced declines in their SNAP enrollments after reinstating part-time work requirements for ABAWDs. Six months after the work requirements were implemented, Maine’s SNAP enrollment dropped from more than 16,000 to less than 3,000. Thousands of former enrollees entered the workforce, where they experienced a 114 percent rise in income. Within three months of implementation, nearly half of Kansas’ enrollees exited the program, gained employment, and experienced an average increase in their incomes of 127 percent. 

As the U.S. economy continues to expand and unemployment rates hit all-time lows, SNAP participation has trended down. State legislators should take advantage of the opportunity a rebounding economy provides. For instance, policymakers should allow SNAP time limit waivers to expire and institute other necessary reforms such as restricting purchases of junk foods, ending SNAP participation for stores that engage in food stamp fraud, and transforming SNAP from an entitlement program to a block-grant program. Inserting self-sufficiency, integrity, and community engagement into SNAP will ensure that only the most vulnerable Americans are given necessary resources, while not ensnaring them in a welfare-woven spider web. 


What We’re Working On 

Child Safety Accounts Allow All Colorado Students Access to Safe Schools 
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson writes about a bill to introduce Child Safety Accounts (CSA) in Colorado. CSAs are a type of education savings account that empowers parents to remove their children from unsafe schools and place them in a safer education environment. Any Colorado public school student would be eligible for a CSA if they were “directly affected or involved” in a “safety incident” at school. These are identified as bullying, sexual harassment, sexual abuse or misconduct, gang activity, fighting or any other act of violence, suicide attempts or threats, or any other incident a licensed Colorado physician examines and identifies to have taken place and harmed a student. 

Energy & Environment
Fallacies of So-Called ‘Sustainable’ Investments 
This Heartland Policy Brief authored by Martin Hutchinson examines—from the point of view of a fiduciary or any other investor whose primary duty or goal is to maximize returns—the arguments made in favor of investing in so-called “sustainables.” The brief shows that fiduciaries have a moral obligation—and, in some cases, a legal obligation—to avoid sustainable investment practices. Such investments usually involve government subsidies and are made as a result of pressure from governments, meaning they are not promising on their own merits. Rather than embrace sustainable investment practices, fiduciaries should focus on sound science and investment practices that maximize risk-adjusted returns. 

Health Care 
The State Lawmaker’s Case for Legalizing Dental Therapy
In this Policy Brief, Heartland Research Fellow Michael Hamilton outlines why state lawmakers should support dental therapy. “Ultimately, state lawmakers face one question looming above all other questions, claims, and statistics generated by the dental therapy debate: Is the freedom of patients to choose their oral health care providers and the freedom of licensed dentists to choose their employees so dangerous that the state should deprive patients and dentists of their liberty?,” wrote Hamilton. 

Budget & Tax
Checking in with the Vaping Congressman
In the episode of Voices of VapersRep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) joins the show to discuss his vaping story, federal legislation, and suggestions for policy makers and e-cigarette users on regulating tobacco harm reduction products.  

From Our Free-Market Friends
The Carbon Tax: Analysis of Six Potential Scenarios 
A study commissioned by Institute for Energy Research and conducted by Capital Alpha Partners evaluates the economic impact of current carbon dioxide tax proposals. The study finds that most carbon dioxide taxes would reduce GDP between $3.76 trillion and $5.92 trillion over a two-decade period. The gargantuan loss in GDP would put a severe financial strain on the budgets of state and local governments, reducing their tax revenues by up to $30.6 billion per year during the first 10 years of the tax. 


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