Cooper: Requiring the able to work

Cooper: Requiring the able to work

December 29th, 2018 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the U.S. could save $15 billion over 10 years if the young and able-bodied would work, train or become educated in order to receive food stamps.

Photo by Mark Humphrey

What's the use of a 22-year-old law if it's not enforced?

The Trump administration said recently it would close loopholes that states have been using to exempt able-bodied adults without dependents receiving food stamps from work requirements.

The Bill Clinton-era work requirements were passed in 1996, requiring adults between the ages of 18 and 49, who are not disabled and have no dependents, to work at least 20 hours a week or be engaged in some sort of education or work training in order to receive food stamps.

However, federal law also allows states to waive the requirements in areas of high unemployment (10 percent and above), and areas higher than the national rate (currently 3.7 percent). This was often done during the Great Recession, and the Obama administration pushed for fewer requirements across the board to be in place to receive benefits.

Now, with unemployment overall and unemployment for blacks and Hispanics at near low records, such waivers — still in place for more than a third of the nation, according to the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) — are unnecessary.

"The new rule reins in state abuse of waivers and other loopholes that have allowed states to avoid requiring childless, able-bodied adults to work, train, or volunteer at least part-time to receive food stamps," the FGA said in a statement.

The proposed changes could save taxpayers $15 billion over the next 10 years, according to Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Georgia is one of the top three states in the country with the highest dollar amount spent on food stamps. In Alabama, 16.31 percent of the population receives them, and in Tennessee it's 15.58 percent of the population.

By definition, the rule does not kick Grandma or mothers with nine children at home off the program if they don't work. But it has the possibility of educating, training or finding work for thousands of people who can work but wouldn't if the benefits would come to them instead.

In Georgia, such young, able-bodied adults are only about 8 percent of those receiving food stamps but today are more easily identified by the state's new social benefits data management system, known as "Georgia Gateway."

We hope the new rule — and similar data management systems — continue to move more able citizens from welfare to work. Work, responsibility, buying power, independence — it could be the start of something big.

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