The USDA and federal government will be enforcing a number of work requirements that are part of the SNAP food stamp program. The tightened regulations will go into effect April 1, 2020 and could cause as many as 700,000 families to lose their government food benefits.
The regulations being put into place by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) are not new, rather the government is enforcing work rules that are already in place. As the federal government was giving exemptions to some states as well as local counties that allowed more people to get SNAP food stamps than in fact should receive the help.
Who may have their food stamps cut in 2020?
The changes to the SNAP food stamp program are around work requirements. As noted, it may impact anywhere from 600,000 to 700,000 adult recipients. In addition, the adults who will have their SNAP benefits stopped will be considered “work eligible”. The disabled, senior citizens, pregnant women, single moms or dads and families with children will not be impacted.
SNAP food stamps was always meant to be an assistance program that was a stop gap type measure. The federal benefit was aimed to help feed families that are going through a short term hardship or those that live in or close to poverty (provided they continue to work and/or make efforts to get a job or new skills). Instead what has happened is hundreds of thousands of able bodied adults have come to really on SNAP (and other cash assistance programs) as a “way of life”. Many of them unfortunately use government benefits instead of working and/or “fending” for themselves. And everyone else who works hard and pays taxes is in fact giving a portion of their hard earned money to those able bodied adults who do not work.
It is estimated that about 75% of the 2.8 million work eligible adults, or 600,000 to 700,000 people, are not working. Even though the job market is the strongest it has been in a generation, and unemployment rates are at 50 year lows, hundreds of thousands of adults are not working and in effect relying on SNAP food stamps and/or other forms of public assistance. Effective April 1, 2020 those non-working adults will have their benefits cut.
What can a person who can’t work do?
Now if for some reason they can’t get a job (of at least 20 hours per week) they could still keep getting their SNAP food stamps if they participate in federal government SNAP-funded Employment and Training programs. They will need to commit to these job training as well as educational services though. Then, when done with that, they will need to get a job. So anyone who may be impacted on April 1, 2020 still has some options. Or find other ways to get help when food stamps are cut.
Effective April 1, 2020 if an able bodied adult is not working at least 20 hours per week, they will only be eligible for at most 3 months of assistance from SNAP Food Stamp benefits during a three-year period. The federal government will not enforce this and not allow as many states and/or counties to get around that rule. Of course, it is contingent on the continued strength of the economy; if the economy and/or job market slows down then that can always be reevaluated.
Is the food stamp program being abused?
Maybe. There is what we think an eye opening stat that shows how the SNAP food stamp program has grown (maybe uncontrollably) over the years. Think about this figure.
Back in the year 2000 there were 17 million people receiving food stamps. Today there are about 36 million. However, the unemployment rate in 2000 was 4% and now, today the unemployment rate is 3.6%. In other words, the job market is stronger today than it was in 2000, yet twice as many people get food stamps. What would possibly explain that?
Abuse, fraud, people becoming reliant, etc. Who knows, but the fact is that seems to be a huge discrepancy that is hopefully looked into. Maybe by making these changes to the program next year, it will bring more visibility to SNAP food stamps and these challenges.
If you are an able bodied adult relying on food stamps, and are not working, then be prepared to either (1) get a job (2) enter into government approved job training or (3) lose your food stamps. As effective April 1, 2020 there will be changes to the program that stop the exemptions from occurring.