The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week that it is looking for innovative ideas to promote work and self-sufficiency among able-bodied adults participating in the department’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The public is invited to provide input through a notice in the Federal Register. Comments can be submitted on the web through the Federal Register tomorrow. USDA intends to use the input received to find improvements to SNAP policy and related services that can best assist SNAP participants return to self-sufficiency.
“Long-term dependency has never been part of the American dream,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “USDA’s goal is to move individuals and families from SNAP back to the workforce as the best long-term solution to poverty. Everyone who receives SNAP deserves an opportunity to become self-sufficient and build a productive, independent life.”
Federal law limits the amount of time an able-bodied adult without dependents (ABAWD) can receive SNAP benefits to three months in a 36-month period, unless the individual is working and/or participating in a work program half-time or more, or participating in workfare. The law exempts individuals from the time limit for several reasons, including age, unfitness for work, or having a dependent child. The law also provides state agencies with flexibility to request a waiver of this time limit if unemployment is high or the area does not have a sufficient number of jobs to provide employment.
“Too many states have asked to waive work requirements, abdicating their responsibility to move participants to self-sufficiency. Past decisions may have been the easy short-term choice, but USDA policies must change if they contribute to a long-term failure for many SNAP participants and their families,” Perdue said.
The President’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Proposal, released on Feb. 12, proposes to limit waivers of the time limit for ABAWDs to counties with 10 percent unemployment over 12 months.
“The SNAP safety net must be there for those unable to work due to disability or another legitimate reason,” Perdue said. “But for the able-bodied, we must reduce barriers to work, and hold both individuals and states accountable for participants getting and keeping jobs.”
Starting tomorrow, the public is invited to submit comments or ideas on helping able-bodied SNAP participants find work and become self-sufficient through federalregister.gov. The comment period will be open through April 9, 2018.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs. In addition to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, these programs include Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, the National School Lunch Program, and the Summer Food Service Program which together comprise America’s nutrition safety net. For more information, visit www.fns.usda.gov.