In 1996 the United States Congress passed welfare reform, which added work requirements for able-bodied adults receiving food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Under President Obama in his 2009 stimulus bill, a waiver was created that allows states and local governments to opt out of those work, training and volunteer requirements.
State Representative Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster) has introduced House Bill 200 to restore the dignity of work in Ohio. According the analysis of the bill, “SNAP recipients must meet work-related eligibility requirements to remain (in) the program.” The requirements for all non-disabled individuals between the ages of 16 and 59, include the following:
- accepting a job offer
- registering for work
- not voluntarily quitting a job or reducing hours worked
- participating in a state-offered SNAP employment and training program
Additional requirements are in place for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) to obtain benefits with HB 200. “Individuals between the ages of 18 and 49 who have no dependents and are not disabled…can only receive SNAP benefits for up to three months every three years,” the analysis states. The only exceptions are if:
- the ABAWD is working at least 20 hours per week
- the ABAWD is participating in approved training or education at least 20 hours per week, or
- the ABAWD is complying with a “workfare” program which is state approved
Democrats are fighting the bill, claiming it is heartless and taking away food from the most vulnerable. Rep. Wiggam pointed to numerous safeguards that protect children and the disabled, but when it comes to letting individuals opt out of work, he’s not for it. “We’re not doing favors for our community by saying ‘It doesn’t matter what you do – here’s free stuff, ‘ and your neighbors pay for it.” stated Wiggam.
“Working, being productive, gaining skills, climbing the ladder – keep them (SNAP recipients) moving upward. You’re serving each other when you engage in work,” Rep. Wiggam said. He showed how the changes would reward individuals who work by permitting them to keep benefits on a sliding scale, protect vulnerable children whose parents or caregivers abuse the system and require Jobs and Family Services to cooperate with child support agencies to prohibit individuals who are refusing to pay their child support from obtaining SNAP benefits.
A person’s assets will also be included when measuring whether or not they are eligible for SNAP. The current program permits a person to win the lottery, deposit the money in their bank, then turn around and obtain benefits because “they have no income.”
Victoria Eardley from the Foundation for Government Accountability supports Rep. Wiggam’s bill. “Right now we are telling people it is okay to sit on the sidelines while Ohio’s economy is booming,” she shared. “HB 200 gives Ohioans the opportunity to break free from dependency through work and empowers them to transition off welfare and into independence.”
Representative Wiggam noted that 18 counties fall under the waiver currently, and only one, Allen County, is refusing to use it. People work to earn benefits there, and that’s not heartless. “If you truly want the best for people, it’s about engaging in their community, working and providing for themselves and others,” proclaimed Wiggan. “Work gives a person dignity.”
– – –