Let’s be honest about food stamp work requirements…

The following is a guest blog post from Sheila Christopher, Executive Director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania. The post originally appeared on their blog here.

The House Health Committee recently approved a measure (H.B. 1659) that would impose mandatory work requirements for all able-bodied food stamp recipients. The legislation is now being fast-tracked for consideration before the full House.

Mandatory work requirements sound reasonable … until you know the facts.

One in seven Pennsylvanians currently use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, to help buy the food they need to survive and feed their families. SNAP helps keep food on the table for thousands of low-wage and part-time workers who can’t find steady employment, veterans, people who are homeless, and people struggling with addictions, in addition to children, seniors, and people with disabilities.Proponents of this measure are trying to advance it with bogus claims that SNAP keeps Americans from working, and that mandatory work requirements save taxpayer money. They’re wrong on both accounts.

The average monthly SNAP benefit totals just $120 per person --- or just $1.34 per meal. When was the last time you ate a meal for less than $1.34? You probably haven’t. But that’s what SNAP families need to find a way to do for every meal, each and every day.

The fact is that most SNAP recipients who can work do work. The number of SNAP households with workers has been rising for more than a decade, tripling from 2000 to 2015 --- suggesting that more working families are turning to SNAP to supplement under-employment, not unemployment.

The irony here is that the proponents who are pushing for SNAP work requirements are among the same lawmakers who hate big government and promote economic development.

Well, every dollar spent in SNAP generates $1.70 in economic activity, so imposing sanctions will reduce spending at supermarkets and farmer’s markets. And, SNAP work requirements are expensive to administer. Monitoring compliance with new work requirements would cost the state millions of dollars we do not have.

Let’s be honest: Individuals who lose SNAP benefits still must eat. Taking away food assistance will not create work opportunities in areas lacking jobs. Taking away food assistance will not increase hours for part-time workers who would gladly work more hours. Taking away food assistance will not expand access to skills training for low-wage workers to advance to positions with better pay.

House Bill 1659 does nothing more than demonize poor families, cut off their access to healthy food, create new bureaucracies that cost millions in state taxes, and hurt local economies. Tell your legislators to oppose House Bill 1659. Please take action today.

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