Lawmakers Ditch Food Stamp Work Requirements in Farm Bill Deal

By: - November 30, 2018 12:00 am

A woman stands outside a store that accepts food stamps in Bon Aqua, Tennessee. The farm bill being considered in Congress could greatly expand work requirements for food stamp recipients. States could be required to provide job training programs. A woman stands outside a store that accepts food stamps in Bon Aqua, Tennessee. After months of delay, Congress reached an agreement on the farm bill — one that won’t include expanded work requirements for food stamp recipients. Mark Humphrey/The Associated Press

For much of this year, Congress couldn’t reach an agreement about the farm bill. House Republicans wanted to greatly expand work requirements for food stamp recipients; Democrats and many Senate Republicans vehemently opposed them.

Now, after months of delay, Senate and House agriculture committee leaders announced they’ve reached a bipartisan deal on the farm bill that does not include work requirements. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the bill next week.

The farm bill funds the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, known as SNAP. The House version of the bill would have required able-bodied adults ages 18 to 59 to work at least 20 hours a week or get training. It also would have provided states billion a year to meet new work training requirements. But in many states, those job training programs wouldn’t have been fully operational for at least another decade.

The Senate version of the farm bill did not expand SNAP work requirements. 

Under current federal law, states must offer work training programs, called SNAP employment and training, to food stamp recipients, but they’re allowed considerable leeway in their implementation.

Some federal lawmakers’ efforts to increase work requirements continues a trend in the past year of asking impoverished families to put so-called “skin in the game” when receiving government benefits. Several states have, for example, imposed certain hurdles to recipients of Medicaid or state-based assistance.

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Teresa Wiltz

Teresa Wiltz covers welfare, housing and social services for Stateline. Previously, she worked for the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune.