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It’s Time to Expand Food Stamp Work Requirements

Did you know that most able-bodied adults on food stamps do not work at all?

It’s true, and it’s unfortunate, because work requirements have a proven track record. Prior to the pandemic, some states had reinstated work requirements with great success. When encouraged off the sidelines, workers saw their incomes triple and found work in more than 1,100 unique industries.

Despite this, millions of able-bodied adults on food stamps aren’t currently subject to any real work requirements. With the Farm Bill bringing an opportunity for food stamp reform, Congress should expand work requirements to help continue to break the cycle of dependency.

In a new paper for the Foundation for Government Accountability, senior research fellow Jonathan Bain notes that the current requirement that able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) to work, train, or volunteer at least part time to remain eligible for food stamps only extends to adults ages 18-50 and will increase to 55 over time. Most other able-bodied adults—such as parents of school-aged children—are subject to a different work requirement known as the general work requirement, which most states have devised ways of not enforcing. 

There are nearly 10 million open jobs today, but with a near-record-high millions of able-bodied adults missing from the labor force. To help families break free from the cycle of dependency and make self-sufficiency attainable, Congress should extend work requirements to include more able-bodied adults, including parents of school-age children and adults up to age 65—when they qualify for Medicare and full Social Security benefits.

Proof That Work Requirements Work

As Bain notes in his paper, work requirements have a long history of being a highly effective tool for helping food stamp enrollees move from dependency to work. States that have implemented these commonsense requirements have experienced outstanding results.


  • Within two years of implementing work requirements, able-bodied, childless adult enrollment dropped by 70 percent.
  • Within two years of leaving welfare, Arkansans saw their incomes triple.
  • Taxpayers saved $28 million annually.


  • Two years after implementing work requirements, the number of able-bodied adults without dependents on food stamps dropped by 94 percent.
  • Floridians went back to work in more than 1,100 unique industries.


  • Less than three years after implementing welfare reform, enrollment among able-bodied, childless adults fell by 72 percent.
  • Mississippians found jobs in more than 700 unique industries.
  • Incomes more than doubled within two years of moving from welfare to work.
  • Taxpayers saved $93 million annually.


  • Less than a year after implementation, the number of able-bodied adults without dependents on food stamps dropped by 85 percent.
  • Within three months, these able-bodied adults saw their incomes rise by 70 percent, and eventually doubling, more than offsetting any loss of benefits.
At FGA, we don’t just talk about changing policy—we make it happen.

By partnering with FGA through a gift, you can create more policy change that returns America to a country where entrepreneurship thrives, personal responsibility is rewarded, and paychecks replace welfare checks.