The number of enrollees in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has dramatically dropped in states that have reintroduced work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents. Meanwhile, the administration of President Donald Trump has aimed to make deep cuts to the welfare program, while the House Freedom Caucus has proposed imposing stiffer work requirements on a national scale.
In 1996, former President Bill Clinton instituted work requirements on the U.S. welfare system, asserting that the prerequisites would help curb poverty and add accountability who received benefits. Following the 2008 economic crash, former President Barack Obama gave states the option of waiving SNAP work requirements in order to give citizens a social safety net in the wake of a skyrocketing unemployment rate.
In January 2009, 32 million Americans were enrolled in SNAP; by 2013, that number grew to 47.6 million, according to PolitiFact.
After 2013, the Obama administration began making cuts to SNAP; by July 2016, the number of nationals enrollees shrank to 43 million.
Following Trump's election, several states with conservative governors have reintroduced the SNAP work requirements on ABAWDs. These states have seen a dramatic reduction in food stamp recipients over the course of six months, according to Fox News.
On Jan. 1, Alabama reintroduced work requirements for ABAWDs in 13 counties. By May, the number of SNAP enrollees in those counties had dropped by 85 percent.
Georgia gave able-bodied SNAP recipients in 21 counties until April 1 to find gainful employment or lose their food stamp benefits. By May 24, that number of ABAWD enrollees in those counties had dropped by 62 percent, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
There is no clear data on whether the ABAWDs who left these state programs found work.
These results have pleased conservative-leaning lawmakers and think tanks who believe that SNAP became bloated following the Great Recession.
"Work requirements have been enormously successful at reducing the number of people on food stamps," said American Enterprise Institute fellow Robert Doar. "And while they made sense in the early part of the recession when unemployment was higher, that is no longer the case."
The results may embolden GOP lawmakers to follow through on proposed cuts to the food stamps program. The Trump administration's budget proposal for the 2018 fiscal year has called for cutting federal funding for SNAP by $191 billion over the course of a decade.
On June 29, an analysis conducted by AlixPartners found that these cuts could have negative consequences for the private sector, estimating that the retail industry would lose $70.7 billion in profits.
"For about every dollar of benefit reduction or spending, there's about a 37-cent loss in grocery sales," managing director Ted Stenger of AlixPartners told CNBC.
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah have proposed legislation that would dramatically expand work requirements for SNAP and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families nationwide.
Jordan's bill would require SNAP and TANF recipients across the country to work at least 100 hours a month to receive benefits. The work requirement would extend beyond ABAWDs and apply to households, but would allow parents to split the 100 hours between themselves, the Washington Examiner reports.
"It's a tough-love way to get them to a better position in life," Jordan said.
Poverty expert Luke Shaefer of the University of Michigan blasted Jordan's the proposal, asserting that it would only deepen poverty.
"If you want to reduce people from the roll, [Jordan's bill] is a good way to do it," Shaefer told Vox. "If you want to increase hardship, especially for people with kids, this is a good way to do it. But if you want to increase work, I'm not sure."