House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) said the government will not kick people off food stamps. Instead, Americans will do it themselves.
The Republican food bill plans to eliminate half the benefits that food stamp recipients receive. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the new bill would cut spending on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits by $9 billion over 10 years. That means 1 million fewer Americans will receive the food stamps.
The bill will also initiate a new training program that will allow any recipient who is unemployed to fulfill work requirements. The work requirement will be placed on individuals 18 and 59 years old, excluding people with disabilities or those who have children younger than 6 years old. The measure requires recipients to document at least 20 hours of work or other qualifying activities in the month — or risk losing their benefits.
“Many workers would likely lose benefits if they couldn’t provide the needed paperwork to show they were working, if their employer cut their hours below 20 hours per week, or if they were temporarily out of work — all realistic scenarios given the reality of low-wage work,” research analyst Brynne Keith-Jennings of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said.
However, Conaway believes anyone who stops receiving SNAP benefits after the new work requirements are implemented — which will happen if a recipient fails to document 20 hours of work per week or doesn't enroll in the trailing program — just means those Americans are unmotivated to work and they will “self-select” not to receive benefits.
“If food stamps are not worth whatever the deal we put up — the array of opportunities we have for them — if it’s not worth that, then fine,” Conaway told HuffPost. “We’re American. I’m not going to force food stamps on anybody.”
“We don’t kick anybody off the program per se,” he added.
However, Democrats are not fooled.
“Let me be clear: This bill, as currently written, kicks people off the SNAP program,” the top Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) said. “The chairman may call them ‘self-selections,’ but let’s call this exercise what it is — reducing SNAP rolls.”
“The image of able-bodied men not working are African-American men in the minds — not of everybody’s mind — but there are unfortunately people out there who have this mental disposition,” Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) said, referring to the notion most Americans erroneously believe SNAP recipients are mostly black.
The draft includes several proposals that Democrats don’t like, including the requirement to document income and expenses of SNAP beneficiaries and to crackdown on parents who don’t pay for child support.
It is not yet confirmed how Conaway’s draft will pass into law without a significant number of Democrats supporting it.
With approximately 42 million beneficiaries receiving benefits, SNAP is the biggest domestic hunger safety net. Recipients get an average of $125 per person a month, which can be redeemed for almost any grocery item. Because of the existing work requirement, the enrollment of beneficiaries has been declining since 2013. Experts believe if the economy remains stable, it could result in 10 million fewer beneficiaries in the next 10 years.
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