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GOP Farm Bill Would Only Kick About 2 Million People Off Food Stamps

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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Congressional Democrats and liberal commentators readily criticize legislative proposals for stricter work requirements for food stamps, but some conservative groups say the bill doesn’t go far enough to help the poor get off of welfare.

One of the stated Republican goals for the latest iteration of the agriculture authorization bill is to help the poor to find work and stop relying on food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.

The House’s version of the farm bill, approved in committee April 18, would only require about 2.1 million of the 15 million “work-capable” food stamp recipients to get work training or work more than 20 hours per week, according to a study by Heritage Action, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation.

Heritage Action’s proposed changes to the bill would subject 7.9 million users to work requirements.

The debate over work requirements applies to around 15 million non-disabled, working-age food stamps recipients out of the 40 million Americans getting benefits. Current law provides temporary food stamps benefits for able-bodied persons without children or dependents, but the proposed legislation would expand a 20-hour per week work requirement to households with children.

The House Committee on Agriculture’s proposed bill, however, also provides a number of exemptions to the work requirements — like exemptions for households with children under 6 and exemptions for one parent in a household with children under 18.

Heritage Action wants to lower the exemption age to three, so recipients with children ages four and above would be subject to the work requirements. The group also would apply the work requirements to both parents of a household, rather than exempting one. Both of those changes to the proposed legislation would only subject about half a million more people to the work requirements.

The biggest change Heritage proposes is eliminating geographic waivers, which allows states to apply for work requirement exemptions for certain counties and regions. Currently, 17 states have stopped asking for the waivers all together, contributing to the recent decline of people from the food stamps rolls. Eliminating the framework for the remaining states to apply for waivers would require about 4.4 million people to be subject to the work requirements.

Heritage Action notes that House Agriculture Committee chairman Rep. Mike Conaway would like all 9.5 million “work-capable food stamp recipients without 20 hours of employment would be required to take a job, take training, or otherwise engage.”

“It is clear that the committee-passed food stamp and farm bill falls well short” of that goal, Dan Holler, vice president of Heritage Action, said in a statement.

The welfare reform measures in the farm bill are so important to the White House that President Donald Trump may threaten to veto the whole bill if they’re not included, the Wall Street Journal Reports. (RELATED: Report: Trump Might Veto Farm Bill If It Doesn’t Add Food Stamps Work Requirements)

“We look forward to continued conversations with the committee, leadership and Republicans members to ensure the bill delivers on the promise of lifting people out poverty through work,” Holler said.

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