Tennessee Reinstates Work Requirements for Food Stamps

By: - September 20, 2017 12:00 am

A volunteer unloads donated baked goods at a food bank in Des Moines, Iowa. Food banks could become strained as states like Tennessee reinstate work requirements for food stamp recipients.

© The Associated Press

Following in the footsteps of other Republican governors, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is reinstating work requirements for many food stamp recipients.

Starting in February, food stamp recipients in 70 counties who are working-aged, able-bodied and don’t have children will need to work, volunteer, or participate in an education or work training program for at least 20 hours a week to continue receiving the benefits, according to a Monday news release.

The federal government suspended the work requirements on those food stamp recipients nationwide in 2009, when jobs disappeared and unemployment rates shot up during the Great Recession. Over time, as their economies have improved, states have been required to reinstate the work requirements.

In other states, like Tennessee, governors have made the decision on their own to reinstate the requirements. Haslam chose to reinstate the requirements because of the “state’s record low unemployment rates and significant job growth,” the news release said.

The change in Tennessee applies to about 58,000 residents in 70 counties, whose benefits will be cut off in April unless they meet the requirements. Sixteen other counties that are “economically distressed” are not affected, and nine counties already have to meet the work requirements.

In the last two years, the number of states without these work requirements has fallen considerably, from 28 states to six. That doesn’t include other states that have requirements only in certain portions of the state.

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Jen Fifield

Jen Fifield reports on rural issues for Stateline, She has covered government in Maryland and Arizona. She has won several regional journalism awards, and was recently a fellow in the Ravitch Fiscal Reporting Program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She graduated with honors from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.