Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced this week that the state will bring back the federal work requirement for able-bodied adults receiving food stamps that was waived in 2008 because of the recession.
The requirement, to be reinstated across most of the state starting Feb. 1, will affect adults without dependents in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), according to a news release issued Monday. The waiver will remain in place in 16 counties considered economically distressed and that have a labor surplus.
More than one million Tennesseans currently receive food stamps. The reinstated work requirement will likely impact 58,000 adults currently not meeting the requirement. The state has a total population of 6.65 million.
As the economy has recovered nationwide, many other states have fully or partially restored their work requirements.
“This waiver was necessary at a time when people were hurting from the recession,” said Haslam, a Republican. “But nearly a decade later, Tennessee is one of the top locations in the Southeast for high quality jobs, and it’s now difficult to justify waiving the work requirement for adults without dependents who are able to work. We have experienced record low unemployment rates and substantial job growth in Tennessee, and if you can’t find a job, we are here to help you through a network of resources and opportunities across the state.”
Nine Tennessee counties, including Davidson and surrounding counties, have shown faster economic growth and have already brought back the work requirement.
To meet the work requirement, people must work at least 20 hours per week or participate in a qualifying education or training program, or approved workfare/volunteer program, at least 20 hours per week.
Haslam also announced that he will propose state legislation next year to incentivize work and reduce fraud in welfare programs.
According to the state Department of Human Services, the following counties will still waive the work requirement: Lake, Lauderdale, Haywood, Hardeman, McNairy, Perry, Wayne, Fentress, Scott, Campbell, Claiborne, Hancock, Cocke, Van Buren, Bledsoe and Grundy.
The following counties have already reinstated the work requirement: Robertson, Sumner, Cheatam, Davidson, Wilson, Williamson, Rutherford, Lincoln and Knox.