Reform in a SNAP: Linking assistance to work right idea

Posted 3/7/18

It comes as no surprise. Each day, each week and each month the public becomes aware of yet new proposed changes via the Trump administration. After eight years of the White House under Democratic …

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Reform in a SNAP: Linking assistance to work right idea


It comes as no surprise. Each day, each week and each month the public becomes aware of yet new proposed changes via the Trump administration.

After eight years of the White House under Democratic Party control, we should fully expect a lot of different ideas, proposals and executive edicts being tossed around now that it’s under the direction of the other party.

And what is one of the latest significant changes in direction coming from the White House and the Republican Party? The answer is tightening work requirements in the food stamp program involving able-body adults without dependents.

Proposed work requirements for SNAP recipients

The Department of Agriculture is currently soliciting public comments on work requirements which would target an estimated 2.9 million people who currently are unemployed and are receiving food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This number represents 6.8 percent of the 43.6 million Americans who receive benefits from SNAP.

The focus would be to expand the current number of recipients in those states which are totally or partially exempt from the existing work requirement.

Under existing regulations, able-bodied adults without dependents can receive benefits for only three months unless they work at least 80 hours a month or participate in a qualified job training or volunteer program. These rules do not currently apply to Alaska, California, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and parts of 28 other states where jobs are less available, however.

The department’s proposal would impose the above requirements on all 50 states. President Trump’s proposed 2019 budget estimates that the proposed work changes would save the government approximately $27 billion over the next 10 years.

Step in the right direction

While the proposed work requirement for able-bodied adults without dependents is a sensitive issue, I would submit that it should not be. Able-bodied citizens should be working or going through training for a job or be volunteering if they want the federal food stamp assistance. I don’t think it is overbearing or out of line at all.

On the other hand, disabled individuals or a single parent with children should not be required to uphold the same work criteria.

But putting a good part of the 2.9 million people who receive food stamps and are able-bodied to work is a step in the right direction.

Medicaid work requirement in Colorado?

On a related note, Governor John Hickenlooper recently commented on imposing a work requirement on Medicaid patients. While addressing changes to the national health care plan with Ohio Governor John Kasich, our governor was asked if he supported some type of work requirement with the plan which the two governors have been working on.

While he stated that he “had no problem with it”, Hickenlooper pointed out that it was in the hands of the state legislature. Furthermore, he pointed out that if required, it likely would only affect a small percentage of Medicaid recipients.

The two governors noted that there is a perception that too many Medicaid enrollees don’t have jobs. Given the nature of health issues with Medicaid patients, it would seem less likely that there would be millions of able-bodied adults who would be capable of working who are not already doing so.

While it seems worthwhile to drill down deeper on how many Medicaid recipients might meet the “able-bodied” criteria, it would be wise to initially concentrate on the food stamp component of any type of a work requirement.

Don’t take public water supply
for granted

You may have heard or read the news about Cape Town, South Africa’s plight about running out of water.

Cape Town is a city of four million people which has been experiencing a protracted drought which has been exacerbated by poor planning on the part of the local government to develop an alternate water supply and impose conservation measures years ago.

The question to ask is “what do you do when your city is running out of water?” In the case of Cape Town, it depends on how much money you have. This city is a classic example of two major categories—-the wealthy and the poor. The wealthy are able to drill their own well, purchase bottled water and other alternatives while the poor are faced with curtailing other basic living costs to purchase bottled water.

Adjustments needed with climate change

The Cape Town experience is a vivid reminder of how important it is for local governments around the world to plan in advance on water supply contingency plans and to impose reasonable water conservation measures as regular policy to stretch existing water supplies.

We in Colorado in our semi-arid climate know this all too well. Our water providers are heavily dependent on the annual mountain snowpack for our water supply. We are at the mercy of Mother Nature which puts added emphasis on the need to have adequate water storage. In the years when there is above average snowpack, more water can be stored with the idea of a savings account for the drier, less snowy winters.

Furthermore, as the elements of climate change show their impact in parts of the world - hotter temperatures and less precipitation, in other words —it is prudent for water planners to adjust their assumptions on weather and precipitation as conditions change. Let’s hope that Cape Town residents and businesses can ride this one out.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.


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