USDA abandons increased work requirements for food stamps

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Tom Vilsack speaks on December 11, 2020, after being nominated to be Agriculture Secretary by US President-elect Joe Biden, in Wilmington, Delaware. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WLNS) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is dropping plans to increase work requirements for food stamps.

Under those requirements, adults ages 18 to 49 who do not have dependents would only be able to get benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for three months in a three-year period unless they are working or enrolled in a work program for at least 80 hours a month. State governments would be able to award a limited number of exemptions from these requirements.

The USDA first proposed the rule in 2019. Supporters said it would encourage people to work rather than rely on welfare. Opponents said it would increase food insecurity among low-income communities. About 700,000 people were expected to lose access to SNAP as a result of the policy.

The requirements were challenged in court, and the USDA was criticized for filing an appeal to defend them in May of last year, as millions of people were losing their jobs at the beginning of the pandemic. Agriculture Secretary Tim Vilsack announced late last month that the department would be dropping that appeal.

“We are pleased to finally put to rest a policy that would have restricted the ability of states to provide nutrition assistance to able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) during times of high unemployment,” Vilsack said in the announcement.

“The rule would have penalized individuals who were unable to find consistent income, when many low wage jobs have variable hours, and limited to no sick leave. Groups with typically higher unemployment, including rural Americans, Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and People of Color, and those with less than a high school education would have been disproportionally harmed by this cruel policy.”

Click here to read the 2019 announcement on the finalized food stamp requirements. Click here to read the USDA’s announcement that the policy had been dropped.

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