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Waivers Gone Wild: New FGA Paper Highlights Abuse of Food Stamp Loopholes

With nearly 10 million open jobs in our country, state and federal policymakers should be doing everything within their power to get workers off the sidelines and back into the workforce. 

The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) has highlighted several ways the government can encourage work over welfare, from commonsense work requirements to eliminating the broad-based categorical eligibility loophole that allows millionaires access to food stamps. 

In a new paper for FGA, Vice President of Policy and Research Jonathan Ingram and Senior Research Fellow Jonathan Bain show how states’ abuse of waivers weakens work requirements and keeps able-bodied adults without dependents at home (ABAWDs).

Now that the federal COVID health emergency has ended, federal work requirements for food stamps go back into effect in July 2023. Despite this, less than 30 percent of ABWADs will be subject to work requirements thanks to waivers and exemptions

Under federal law, the work requirement is to work, train, or volunteer at least part time to be eligible for the program. According to the paper, in the twilight of the Clinton administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued new rules that created loopholes that allowed states to waive work requirements for millions of able-bodied adults, even during periods of economic growth. Ingram and Bain point out: “Three of the largest loopholes have allowed states to gerrymander areas in order to waive work requirements in as many jurisdictions as possible, rely on outdated data to justify waivers, and waive work requirements in areas with objectively low unemployment, as long as it is slightly above the national average.”

One way states are abusing waivers is by using data from the beginning of the pandemic, when the national unemployment rate was 14.7 percent, to justify waivers when the unemployment rate sits at a near-record-low 3.4 percent. 

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.