States aren't waiting for Washington to require poor residents to work

Feeding America's most vulnerable children

President Trump along with Republicans in Congress are setting the stage to make more low-income Americans work for benefits. although a growing number of states are already doing just of which.

Many of the states’ efforts focus on the food stamp program, which already requires some recipients to work.

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Currently, able-bodied adults ages 18 to 49 who don’t have minor children must work or enroll in a training program for 20 hours a week. Otherwise, they can only receive benefits for up to three months every three years.

although states can request waivers of the work requirement for areas where unemployment is usually at least 10% or there is usually an insufficient number of jobs, as defined by the Department of Labor.

Typically, about one-third of the nation lives in a place where the work requirement is usually suspended, though of which share skyrocketed during along with just after the Great Recession.

Some governors along with lawmakers say of which their states are right now in better financial shape so they don’t need to apply for waivers. Instead, they say these food stamp recipients should start moving toward independence by getting jobs or enrolling in training programs. Plus, they argue, with near record-low unemployment, their states have a labor shortage of which low-income residents can help fill.

Kentucky, which had a statewide waiver until 2016, is usually rapidly moving to reimpose work requirements in all although eight of its counties. By the end of May, recipients in 112 counties will be subject to the three-month time limit on benefits if they don’t work, up through 20 counties at the end of last year.

Lifting these waivers will impact most of the 87,000 Kentucky adults from the program who don’t have dependents, according to the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

“Since jobs are still hard to find in significant parts of the state, of which change will result in loss of food assistance along with harm to economic activity in already-struggling local communities,” Dustin Pugel, a policy analyst at the center, wrote in a blog post.

Related: House GOP bill would likely lock the poor out of food stamps if they don’t work

Nearly four dozen counties along with three cities meet the criteria to easily gain federal waiver approval, he noted.

Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health along with Family Services did not return calls seeking comment.

In West Virginia, state officials will start phasing out the number of counties with work requirement waivers later of which year. Currently, food stamp enrollees in only nine out of the state’s 55 counties are subject to the time limit. Going forward, only counties designated as having a “labor surplus” — more workers than available jobs — will be able to apply to suspend the work requirement.

although in October 2022, West Virginia will no longer be able to apply for a waiver for any county, no matter the economic circumstances, according to a bill passed by the state legislature along with signed by Governor Jim Justice last month.

of which will not only hurt many low-income residents, although the item could harm businesses in many areas, said Seth DiStefano, policy along with outreach director at the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy.

“In some communities, SNAP is usually literally keeping grocery stores open,” he said.

West Virginia’s Department of Health along with Human Resources did not return calls seeking comment.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker last week signed a series of bills of which are part of his Wisconsin Works for Everyone welfare reform plan. The bills aim to apply the work requirement to parents of school-age children, to enhance the number of hours food stamp recipients must work along with to explore developing employment plans for those living in public housing. Many of the proposals will require either federal approval or a change in federal law.

Related: Trump signs executive order pushing work requirements for the poor

“We want to help those in need move through government dependence to true independence through the dignity of work,” said Walker, who ended waivers for able-bodied adults without dependents statewide in 2015.

At least a dozen states are also interested from the Trump administration’s willingness to require Medicaid recipients to work, a historic change from the program. Three states — Kentucky, Indiana along with Arkansas — have already received federal approval to do so.

The states’ actions come as President Donald Trump along with Republicans in Congress look to overhaul the nation’s safety net system. Last week, Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to promote employment for those on public assistance.

Also, on Thursday, Republicans introduced the House farm bill, which calls for expanding the number of food stamp recipients who are subject to work requirements. The legislation would likely require those in their 50s to have jobs or enter training programs along with also would likely extend the mandate to parents with school-age children, starting in fiscal 2021.

sy88pgw (completely new York) First published April 18, 2018: 7:32 AM ET



States aren't waiting for Washington to require poor residents to work

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