Continued state abuse of work requirement waivers moves USDA to act
USDA has proposed a rule to curb states’ efforts to waive food stamp work requirements for childless, able-bodied adults. If finalized, the rule would help more able-bodied adults break out of welfare and into economic success.
A new report shows just how necessary this rule is: one-third of the country lives in an area where work requirements are waived. States have abused loopholes, gerrymandering areas and using old data to waive work requirements for as many adults as possible, despite a national unemployment of 3.8 percent.
According to the report, nearly 2.6 million able-bodied adults will be waived from the work requirement in 2019 alone.
Out of the over 1,100 jurisdictions waived in January 2019, only 23 had unemployment rates over 10 percent, the level required by federal statute. Nearly 1,000 had unemployment rates under six percent.
In Illinois, only one county is subject to the work requirement. Just 9,580 of the over 414,000 childless, able-bodied adults on food stamps in Illinois are required to work, train, or volunteer at least part-time in order to receive benefits.
Louisiana has waived work requirements statewide, meaning over 60,000 adults on food stamps in are missing out on the power of work. In both Illinois and Louisiana, the state-wide unemployment rate is below five percent.
Studies show that work requirements are a powerful tool for good when it comes to improving the lives of those on food stamps, propelling able-bodied adults into over 1,000 different industries and more than tripling their incomes. USDA is on the right track by closing these loopholes, but simple revisions like using commuting zones instead of labor market areas could move the ball even further.