Thursday, April 7, 2016

Work requirement for SNAP: Is it fair?

When the economic crisis began in 2008, many states rolled back requirements that SNAP recipients who do not have a child or a disability must find a job within three months of receiving benefits and work an average of 20 hours per week.

This year, a number of states, including Connecticut, are reinstating that federal mandate. The move could cost as many as 1 million Americans access to food assistance, according to The Washington Post.  

According to the story, in many states the work requirement was automatically reinstated this year as the economy continued to recover. For some of those states, the three-month grace period ended on April 1. The requirement has been in place since 1996, according to the report.

The average time for an unemployed American to find a new job is more than six months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The work requirement can be waived when the area unemployment rate is above 10 percent or 20 percent above the national average, or if the labor market is deemed week on other criteria. But states can still reinstate the requirement even if times are still tough. 

A number of political leaders say that able-bodied adults who can work should be working -- and that the 20-hour work requirement helps promote that goal. 

But critics say the requirement ignores the realities of how difficult it is to find steady employment in an economy where steady manufacturing jobs have vanished.

"We've seen a long-term trend toward more precarious job conditions for low-skilled workers," Shawn Fremstad of the Center for Economic and Policy Research told The Washington Post. "Even if you get a job, you're not guaranteed more than 20 hours a week."

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