Arkansas Is Going The Wrong Way To Test People’s Willingness To Work

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Arkansas is the first state to reinstate its three-month limit on food-stamp benefits — but is it ready for the consequences?

Food Stamp

An estimated 12,000 unemployed citizens of Arkansas will be without food-stamp benefits by the end of this month.

The Natural State began enforcing requirements on Jan 1 that limit food-assistance to three months for healthy, childless individuals ages 18-49, who are unemployed or not in school. The state is sending out notices for the annulment of the food-stamp benefits, which will be imposed April 1.

Although there were calls for a three-month limit period previously in Arkansas and several other states, it did not come to pass because of the country’s recession and sky-rocketing unemployment. However, now that the conditions have stabilized, the government of Arkansas is the first of the 23 states to reinstate the requirement.

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The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates about 500,000 to 1 million people in the country will lose food-stamp benefits by year end. The loss of food aid, which averages about $150 to $170 per person on a monthly basis, will obviously cause hardship to individuals, who have an average monthly income of approximately 17 percent above the poverty line.

About 40 percent of the diverse individuals are women with no source of income and an estimated 33 percent are over the age of 40. Half have only high school diplomas while about one-quarter are high school dropouts.

Many in this population struggle to find jobs even in normal economic times and cutting off their food supply does not get them employment opportunities. States must reconsider this harsh rule and should find a better way to test an individual’s willingness to work — otherwise governments will have to deal with the consequences of a significant number of frustrated individuals who have lost their only food source.

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