* Press release from yesterday…
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today sent a letter to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner requesting further information about a waiver the State of Illinois submitted in November to exempt every county except for one from work requirements within the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP).
“The biggest concern I hear right now from employers is the inability to hire for the jobs they have available,” said Davis. “These are good paying jobs that we need taken to keep our economy growing and they’re jobs that help people get out of poverty. I want to make sure our state is doing everything they can to pair those who can work with these jobs. The Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents work requirement was a bipartisan initiative put in place during the Clinton Administration, but it seems states continue to exploit loopholes. Just because the rules allow it, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily what’s best for our our state so I’m hoping to get a little more clarification from Governor Rauner on the need for a waiver.”
Under current law, Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) who are are enrolled in the SNAP program have been subject to a work requirement since 1996, under President Clinton. This requirement is 80 hours per month of either working or workforce development activities such as SNAP Employment and Training. If that individual does not comply with the work requirement, they are limited to receiving SNAP benefits for 3 months in a 3 year period.
States can apply for a waiver from the time limit for ABAWDs if there are areas within the state that have an unemployment rate of over 10% or if there is a lack of sufficient jobs. In 2001, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) promulgated a final rule establishing that areas could qualify where the unemployment rate was 20% higher than the national average for 24 months. Additionally, the Obama Administration released further guidance in 2016 outlining how states could establish the need for waiver.
Davis fought for stricter work requirements and a nearly $1 billion a year investment in SNAP Employment and Training programs in the most recent farm bill. Unfortunately, these reforms were not included in the final bill.
* I asked the Shriver Center for a response and here’s Dan Lesser…
The Republican Congress just passed a Farm Bill that rejects the harsh work requirement penalties Cong. Davis advocates for. It did so in recognition that starving people is not an effective job creation program.
Gov. Rauner is to be commended for taking action through a waiver request to protect SNAP benefits for 200,000-300,000 Illinoisans, almost of whom face major and sometimes multiple major barriers to working 20 hours per week, including functional illiteracy, undiagnosed mental illness, and a criminal record. The meager SNAP benefits that these single adults receive — $192/month with no other assistance — is hardly enough to function as a work disincentive, as some would have you believe..
Empirical research has shown that the vast majority of men and women who would be cut off SNAP because they are not working at least 20 hours per week want to work. They either aren’t able to work, can’t find a job, can’t maintain 20 hours per week of employment in our unstable, low-wage work market, or are actually meeting the 20 hour requirement but are being cut off through bureaucratic errors.
The Trump administration is setting out to do what this year’s farm bill didn’t: tighten work requirements for millions of Americans who receive federal food assistance. […]
The USDA’s proposed rule would strip states’ ability to issue waivers unless a city or county has an unemployment rate of 7 percent or higher. The waivers would be good for one year and would require the governor to support the request. States would no longer be able to bank their 15 percent exemptions. The new rule also would forbid states from granting waivers for geographic areas larger than a specific jurisdiction. […]
A Brookings Institute study published this summer said more stringent work requirements are likely to hurt those who are already part of the workforce but whose employment is sporadic. […]
“I expect the rule will face significant opposition and legal challenges.” [said the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow, of Michigan]
…Adding… Congressman Davis responded to the proposed federal rule…
“Our safety-net is catching people when they fall, but it’s doing little to help them get back on their feet,” said Davis. “We have employers who can’t fill jobs, yet 74 percent of able-bodied adults without dependents on SNAP are not working. The proposed rule restores the intent of the 1996 law, which was passed in a divided government to help more individuals find a good-paying job and become less reliant on government assistance. I still believe greater investment is needed in our employment and training programs like we had in the House-passed farm bill and I want to work with our state to ensure they have what they need to help place people in open jobs.”