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Donald Trump to tighten work rules on food stamps after Congress punts on issue

December 20, 2018

President Trump moved Thursday to tighten work requirements for people who receive food stamps, after Congress failed to include the proposal in a $400 billion farm bill that’s headed to the president’s desk.

The Agriculture Department said it is proposing a rule on Mr. Trump’s orders that would move “more able-bodied recipients” of food stamps back into working at least 20 hours per week.

“Long-term reliance on government assistance has never been part of the American dream,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “As we make benefits available to those who truly need them, we must also encourage participants to take proactive steps toward self-sufficiency. Moving people to work is common-sense policy, particularly at a time when the unemployment rate is at a generational low.”

The action comes soon after lawmakers passed the farm bill, which reauthorizes agriculture and conservation programs while leaving untouched food-stamp program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which serves about 40 million Americans.

The House proposed to tighten work requirements on food stamps, but the Senate didn’t go along.

Currently, able-bodied adults ages 18-49 without children are required to work 20 hours a week to keep their food-stamp benefits. The House measure would have raised the age of recipients subject to work requirements from 49 to 59 and required parents with children older than 6 to work or participate in job training.

The House measure also sought to limit circumstances under which families that qualify for other poverty programs can automatically be eligible for SNAP.

The Agriculture Department said the proposed rule “is meant to restore the system to what it was meant to be: assistance through difficult times, not lifelong dependency. Over time, without any changes in the underlying welfare reform legislation of 1996, that ideal has been watered down by out-of-control administrative flexibility in SNAP.”

“Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch,” Mr. Perdue said. “That is the commitment behind SNAP. But like other federal welfare programs, it was never intended to be a way of life.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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