Society

Why Stricter Work Requirements For Food Stamps Need To Be Coupled With Expanded Job Training Programs

| by Nicholas Roberts

Across the United States, more and more states are reinstating work requirements for SNAP, or food stamp, recipients.

The requirements were part of the SNAP program since the 1990s, but they were suspended in 2009. They stipulate that any able-bodied adult between the ages of 18 and 49 without children must either work or take part in a job-training/educational program for 80 hours a month in order to continue receiving benefits beyond three months, The Columbian reports.

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They were suspended across the entire nation in 2009, as recession set in and jobs disappeared. But as state economies have improved, the requirements have returned to (at least parts of) 43 states. 

However, this requirement alone will not necessarily incentivize SNAP recipients to get jobs. Rather states need to provide their citizens with adequate job training resources in order to see change.

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In Indiana, for example, there is fear that state assistance programs will not be nearly enough to help find work for the 65,000 Indianaians who stood to lose their food stamps in 2015, Fox 59 reports.

"One of the concerns that we have about these able-bodied adults without dependents is that they do have barriers; just because they're not federally designated as disabled," Jessica Fraser, a program manager for the Indiana Institute for Working Families, told Fox 59.

She added that one can work just slightly under 20 hours a week and still not be eligible to receive food stamps. With the rise of part-time work and the 'gig' economy across the United States over the past few years, this is a situation which many working Americans find themselves in.

"The employment and training program served 783 people in 2014, and when this waiver takes full effect, there's maybe 65,000 Hoosiers that are going to be rushing in to try to get on that program,” Fraser said.

The federal government requires states to make job training programs available to those who would be losing their food stamps, according to The Columbian. The problem is that individual states can choose to make these programs as basic or comprehensive as they want.  

In the case of Indiana, besides a lack of resources for job training, there is a concern that food pantries will be unable to meet increased demand.

In contrast, a state like Washington has the requirements in place, but also provides generous job and professional training for citizens who live there. The Seattle Jobs Initiative is one such example, which provides job search instruction, job training, GED prep classes, English classes and a host of other services for those who need it.

According to David Kaz, the director of policy and communications at the Seattle Jobs Initiative, around 70 percent of those who make use of the state's job-training programs find employment.

It is not enough to say that ending food stamp benefits will incentivize people to find work; the resources to help them achieve employment need to be provided as well.

Sources: Fox 59The Columbian / Photo Credit: Watchdog.org, U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr