From Poverty to Opportunity

How Work Requirements Work

May 16, 2018 | COMMUNICATIONS •

In case you’re too busy, here’s a quick summary:

-Too many SNAP recipients are trapped in a cycle of poverty thanks to a system that discourages work and limits opportunity.

-House Republicans are taking action to tackle this cycle of poverty through work requirements included in the 2018 Farm Bill.

-There are two components to recognize when it comes to work requirements: (1) who is required to work, and (2) what exactly is included in these requirements.

-Case studies from Kansas and Maine prove the effectiveness of this type of legislation,  showing that these requirements have cut American’s time on welfare in half.

Too many SNAP recipients are trapped in a vicious cycle.

Without the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, these Americans wouldn’t know where their next meal would come from. Our current system discourages work; it keeps work-capable men and women stuck in a cycle of dependence. Furthermore, SNAP recipients lack access to adequate skills training to obtain a job that provides meaningful income and a chance to improve their future.

That’s why House Republicans are taking action to tackle this cycle of poverty by helping struggling Americans provide for themselves and achieve their version of the American Dream.

Enter the 2018 Farm Bill.

You’ve likely heard a myriad of conspiracies and misconceptions surrounding this legislation (looking at you, Minority Leader Pelosi). Unfortunately, much of what is being said is aimed at scoring political points at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society.

Yes, benefits are critically important and serve as a safety net in society. But it is not our aim (nor should it be anyone’s aim) to trap Americans in a cycle of dependence. We do not want Americans who have fallen into poverty to stay in poverty. We do not want Americans who rely on government assistance to be left in such unstable conditions.

We, instead, want to see people move from welfare to work; from poverty to opportunity.

So here’s exactly what we’re proposing in the 2018 Farm Bill: A 20 hr/week work, volunteer, or training requirement for work-capable adults currently enrolled in SNAP.

Before we move any further, let’s take a minute to define the two main components of this proposal.

  1. Work-capable adults. They only make up ⅓ of the population of SNAP recipients. They are men and women between 18 and 59 years old. So namely, not children or seniors. Work capable also discludes individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, according to research from the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), 60 percent of work-capable adults are white, 40 percent are male, 40 percent do not have children, and more than half are under the age of 35.
  2. 20 hr/week work requirement. It’s not just work. The requirement allows for participation in a combination of work, a work program, volunteering, or participation in SNAP Education and Training program (in which, under this legislation, they are guaranteed a spot). Additionally, states will maintain the authority to waive these requirements for individuals facing temporary obstacles, and geographic waivers will be maintained to address areas with high rates of unemployment.

So what happens when you implement work requirements?

Case studies from Kansas and Maine show that enrollees went back to work and their incomes more than doubled. Those who returned to work found employment in more than 600 industries including construction, publishing, and nursing. And finally (this is the big one) their time on welfare was cut in half.

“With the creation of sensible work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and funding for workforce development programs, we’re empowering work-capable adults to pursue their version of the American Dream. There are millions of jobs available in this country waiting for someone with the right skills to come and fill the slot.“

-House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Democrats need to stop acting like work is a punishment or a penalty. Work provides dignity, social capital, opportunity, and creates the only path to self-sufficiency.

So, yes, the 2018 Farm Bill includes realistic and supportive workforce solutions for work-capable adults because it is a proven, effective, and dignifying way out of poverty and into the workforce.