This week, Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) introduced the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 2996). This legislation would help reduce poverty and government dependency, increase self-sufficiency, and restore families by strengthening the effective and popular work requirements for all "able-bodied adults without dependents" (ABAWDs) who receive food stamps from SNAP.
In 1996, President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which became popularly known as "welfare reform," into law. The legislation transformed the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a program intended to provide temporary financial assistance to low-income families while encouraging work and self-sufficiency.
Most significantly, the 1996 welfare reform included mandatory federal work requirements, stipulating that welfare recipients must be engaged in work or some type of work activity in order to receive TANF benefits. These reforms were popular and successful as welfare caseloads dropped "by over 50 percent, employment of the least-skilled single mothers surged, and the poverty rates of black children and single-parent families dropped rapidly to historic lows."
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017 builds on the success of the 1996 welfare reform by applying similar principles involving work requirements to SNAP—a welfare program that has grown out-of-control in recent years, both in cost and in the number of recipients. From 2000 to 2015, food stamp recipients increased by more than 28 million and cost the government $83.1 billion in FY 2014 alone.
According to Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy Studies in the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity at the Heritage Foundation, and Rachel Sheffield's paper Setting Priorities for Welfare Reform:
"The food stamp program is the second largest means-tested welfare program. In 2014, government spent $83.1 billion on the program. In recent years, the most rapidly growing group of food stamp recipients has been able-bodied adults without dependents. ABAWDs are adults between the ages of 18 and 49 who are not disabled and who have no children to support. In 2014, nearly five million ABAWDs received food stamps each month; few are employed."
Congress must consider common-sense reform to SNAP in order to rein in its unsustainable growth. Requiring able-bodied adults without dependents to work as a condition for food stamp benefits is a sensible, effective policy that should receive broad bipartisan support. An overwhelming 90 percent of Americans agree that able-bodied adults receiving means-tested welfare assistance should be required to work or prepare for work. This reform was included in both President Trump's FY 2018 budget request as well as the House GOP's FY 2017 budget, and it has been implemented in Maine, Kansas, and Alabama with great success.
Rector and Sheffield continue:
"ABAWDs who receive food stamps should be required to work, prepare for work, or look for work in exchange for receiving benefits. In FY 2014, Maine implemented a work requirement for ABAWDs. After the implementation of the work requirement, Maine's ABAWD caseload dropped substantially, by 80 percent within just a few months. If a federal work requirement for ABAWDs were enacted and achieved the same level of success as was achieved in Maine, the reform could save taxpayers up to $9.7 billion annually."
If passed and signed into law, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017 would encourage millions of Americans to get back to work, help end the cycle of poverty for millions dependent on government assistance, and save taxpayers billions of dollars over the next decade.
***Heritage Action supports the legislation, encourages Representatives and Senators to support it, and reserves the right to key vote in the future.***