The other day, I read an article suggesting that those able bodied folks who are benefiting from the Food Stamp program should be allowed to stay on the program because they are financially strapped and can’t find a job. Really?
I understand the reason for the Food Stamp program, otherwise known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), was originally for those unfortunate citizens who were disabled, elderly, children, or those who had underage children at home with minimal financial resources to obtain food and the necessities of a home environment.
According to the DHS, of the 48M people on SNAP, 48.7% of those on the program are children, 8% are elderly, 19.8% are disabled and not elderly, and 23.6% are able bodied folks from 18-50 in a childless home. Theoretically, only 3 months of benefits are available to those able bodied people unless working 20hrs per week and/or in a training program. Household incomes must be around $24,100/year or less for a family of three. Although not surprising because more of the U.S. population is white, almost 50% of the recipients are white, 26% black, and Hispanics 20%.
Now, that makes 11+ million able bodied persons without dependents receiving SNAP benefits. Many studies have been done, and the literature reviewed by Mathematica Policy Research a while back that found that job prospects for these low income able body individuals were not promising, were mostly white collar jobs, were far from their living quarters, or higher skilled jobs requiring cognitive and interactive skills. So, it seemed that these folks had minimal chance to improve their situations.
I would say that, with this information, it seems on the surface that the SNAP will get larger and larger, and we can’t do anything about. Except, the State of Maine has done something about it, and its results are something to marvel at. Under the governorship of Paul LePage, the number of food stamp recipients fell or more like plummeted from 12,000 to 2680.
So what happened with that 80% of participants? According to One News Now, since last October, Maine mandated that non-disabled adults without dependents are required to work at least 20hrs per week, volunteer, or enter into a work-training program. Evidently, Maine is not the only state being able to remove some folks off of food stamps, and therefore move these people off the welfare roles and into the workforce. In fact, the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service estimates that, solely because of these rules, 1M people could be removed from SNAP.
What is more incredible is the Maine used to be #3 behind Oregon and Mississippi with the highest percentage of participation in SNAP at 18% in 2013.
You see, the old system in Maine was rewarding perfectly capable adults for not looking for or finding work. Mary Mayhew, commissioner of Health and Human Services stated, “If you’re on these programs, it means you are living in poverty, and so the more that we can help incentivize people on that pathway to employment and self-sufficiency, the better off they’re going to be.” And, those who can’t find a job or enter a job training program, can volunteer 24hrs/week to remain in SNAP.
With such a success and other states starting to pick up on these guidelines, one would think, all healthy food stamps recipients without dependents will not find it difficult to meet these requirements, and it is very possible that eventually many of them will be able to enter the workforce, become self sufficient, hopefully financial responsible, and contribute to the economy of our country.