MASON CITY, Iowa - On Thursday afternoon, President Trump signed a new farm bill into law. This followed months of negotiations between the House and Senate regarding work requirements for food stamp recipients.
A provision that didn't make it into the final bill would have raised the age of recipients who receive food stamp benefits to work from 49 to 59, and required parents with children older than 6 to work or participate in job training in order to qualify for the program. But now, the President and the USDA are reintroducing a proposal to tighten those requirements.
The proposal introduced Thursday by the USDA would restrict the ability of states to exempt work-eligible adults from having to obtain steady employment to receive benefits. While states are currently allowed to grant benefit extensions for 15% of their work-eligible adult population without a waiver, the proposed rule would bar a states' ability to issue waivers unless a city or county has an unemployment rate of 7% or higher.
Currently, able-bodied adults ages 18-49 without children are required to work 20 hours a week to maintain their benefits, and can receive only three months of SNAP benefits in a three-year period if they don't meet the 20 hour work requirement. But states with an unemployment rate of 10% or higher or a demonstrable lack of sufficient jobs can waive those limitations.
Janice Schutt of Mason City only receives $15 in food stamps per month. While she is retired and is facing some health issues, she knows younger people who are struggling to feed their children on limited income. She believes the proposal would only hurt recipients.
"We get very little in food stamps. It's not a big item per person, however, it does help us with our budgets."
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says that the changes could save taxpayers $15 billion over the next 10 years.