Work requirements for welfare are empowering

The food stamp program is intended to help people who temporarily can’t help themselves, and federal law calls upon able-bodied adults without children to work in exchange for their welfare. Yet, as is the case with many other federal programs, reality doesn’t always align with intentions or expectations.

The truth is that two in five able-bodied adults who receive food stamps will remain on them for more than eight years. Most able-bodied adults in the program don’t work at all, in part because much of the country has been exempted from meaningful work requirements through waivers and carve outs.

The federal law establishing “work for welfare” in the food stamp program been twisted from its 1996 roots into something very different. The rules in place today — promulgated primarily by Clinton- and Obama-era bureaucrats — end up being a trap for state lawmakers as well as those receiving benefits.