Georgia plans to expand work requirements for food stamps from three counties to 24 starting in 2017, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
The state started requiring adults without children to prove they were looking for work in order to be eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or food stamps, in just three counties in January 2016.
Those three counties saw a 60 percent drop in food stamp recipients, from 6,102 in January to 2,468 in June, AJC reports. Next year, the state will expand the work requirement to 20 more counties, and may push to bring all 159 Georgia counties under the regulations soon.
To receive benefits under the new requirements, adults between 18 and 49 who don’t have children or disabilities will have to work 80 hours per month. Only about 10,ooo people in the 20 counties will be affected by the expanded requirements, but there are about 110,000 able-bodied individuals without children out of the 1.8 million who receive food stamps in Georgia.
While the requirement will save taxpayer money and encourage people to find work, not everyone is in favor of attaching work requirements to food stamps.
“There are a lot of people who cannot find jobs based on criminal records, a lack of education, the availability of jobs and impairments,” said state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, according to AJC. “I believe we should have a safety net for those people,” she said.
“When we add 20 or more counties, we’ll see an even steeper drop off of people losing this critical help,” Melissa Johnson, a policy analyst at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute told AJC. Johnson said the term “able-bodied” is overused, and that the rule would wrongfully worthy hurt people who need the assistance.
The second biggest age group for food stamps are 22-35 year-olds, behind children under 16. A total of 770,666 children under the age of 16 received food stamps in June of 2015, compared to 332,096 individuals between 22 and 35 years old, according to data from the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services.
“Ending welfare assistance is not just about saving taxpayer dollars, although that is always welcome,” Benita Dodd, vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, wrote in a recent blog post. “The goal must be to focus aid on those who truly need help and restore the dignity of work to able-bodied adults,” Dodd said.
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