House Republicans are once again trying to make changes to the $74 billion food-stamps program both in costs and eligibility, The Wall Street Journal Reports.
The House Agriculture Committee, chaired by Texas Republican Representative Mike Conaway, is scheduled for its first hearing on Feb. 25 to discuss the food-stamp program - formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program.
Conaway has expressed some concern about the work ethic in America, seeing as how the program doubled its number of recipients in the last decade to 46.5 million people.
“A family that depends on their own work is more secure,” Conaway told The Journal. “There’s a dignity in taking care of yourself.”
The Republican said it’s too early to discuss specifics but indications are that he is leaning towards a program with fewer recipients.
Some states have already pressed for tighter eligibility requirements, one state going as far as to making it a requirement for food stamp recipients to undergo drug tests.
Currently, a family can qualify for food stamps with four dependants and a gross monthly income less than $2,584.
According to The Journal, more than 20 states are preparing to reinstate time limits that were waived during the recession. They added that healthy adults without children would be limited to three months of benefits every three years if they are not employed or enrolled in job training for at least 20 hours a week.
If reinstated, it could cut benefits for 1 million people, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank that specializes in low-income policies.
“It was and still is a well-functioning program,” said Ed Bolen, a food-stamp expert and member of the think tank group. “But we need to figure out what works and for whom.”
But some people still support the idea of limiting eligibility.
“The program was structured when malnutrition was a real problem,” Douglas Besharov, professor at the University of Maryland, told The Journal. “It has now become a form of income support.”
Democrats are expected to combat any changes proposed by Republicans.
“We cannot balance the budget on the backs of poor people,” said Jim Govern, Massachusetts Democratic Representative and member of the House of Agricultural Committee.
Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican Senator and chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, remained optimistic about finding a middle ground.
“Finding out what’s broken is the first step, then we’ll get to work on improving the program,” Roberts told The Journal in a statement.