Trump Administration Wants to Tighten Work Requirements for Food Stamps

December 20, 2018, 1:14 PM UTC

The Trump administration wants to tighten work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program—also known as food stamps.

The Department of Agriculture has proposed stricter rules on when states could give work-eligible adults exemptions to employment requirements when receiving SNAP benefits.

The SNAP program had received a 10-year renewal with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill earlier this year. It came after months of fights and negotiation over work requirement and eligibility changes that House Republicans wanted. Democrats claimed the proposed changes would have left 2 million people with reduced or non-existent benefits. In the end, the final version dropped new requirements.

Donald Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue had supported the changes, according to Politico. Trump had used his Twitter bully pulpit to push for the stricter requirements.

Currently, so-called able-bodied adults without dependents, or ABAWDs—people 18 through 49 who are not disabled and have no dependents—can receive food stamps for no longer than three months in a three-year period. There have been two exceptions. One is that a recipient was enrolled in job training for at least 80 hours a month.

The other exception was a state’s ability to waive the restriction if unemployment was high or if jobs were unavailable. Many states gave waivers during the Great Recession. At the present, 36 states and territories still waive the limits for at least part of their population. The new USDA plan would set a minimum unemployment rate of 7% as a trigger point for issuing exemptions.

The rules also would address an automatic allotment of exemptions for 15% of ABAWD recipients, according to the USDA. States have been able to accumulate unused exemptions for future use.