Heritage Research Influences Food Stamp Eligibility Rule


Heritage Research Influences Food Stamp Eligibility Rule

Dec 6, 2019


The Trump administration released a final rule Dec. 4 to address abuses in the food stamp program. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that “The new rule appears to base its intellectual underpinning on policy developed at the conservative Heritage Foundation.”

The rule closes loopholes in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). States have used those loopholes to circumvent federal work requirements for food stamp recipients. Essentially, those who can work should work, or prepare to work, in order to get benefits.

“We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in a statement. “Now, in the midst of the strongest economy in a generation, we need everyone who can work to work.”

In April 2018, President Donald Trump signed an executive order calling for reforms in the welfare system to promote work and strengthen marriage. Heritage Foundation experts immediately provided analysis on the steps policymakers could take to encourage these changes in the food stamps program.

“Policymakers should strengthen work requirements by eliminating waivers that exempt certain counties and states from enforcing the current work requirement on able-bodied adults without dependents,” wrote Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at Heritage, in a op-ed.

Jamie Bryan Hall, another Heritage research fellow, also wrote an op-ed about how to design the rule in order to achieve these policy goals.

Rector says the new rule—which doesn’t impact parents with young children, the elderly or disabled—is a positive step toward much-needed reform for the food stamp program.

“The administration’s approach has nearly universal public support. Over 90 percent of the public agree that able-bodied adults who receive cash, food, housing, and medical assistance should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving those government benefits.”

Rector says that work requirements in the program still remain weaker than they should be. Of the 3 million able-bodied adults without dependents currently receiving food stamp benefits, roughly two-thirds would remain exempt from the work requirements.

Heritage has recommended that Congress pass legislation to ensure that both the food stamps program—and the rest of welfare programs—have work requirements in order to get benefits.

“Work is a critical path out of poverty that provides people with dignity and purpose. Ultimately, Congress should enact reforms that encourage work across the rest of the more than 90 federal welfare programs. We’ve seen how successful work requirements, like those in the 1996 welfare reform law, can empower Americans,” says Rector.