by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
For millions of families stuck in government dependence, the stakes couldn’t be higher: Their opportunity to experience work through welfare reforms that promote work is in the hands of congressional members. It’s a historic moment — the unemployment rate is low, and there are more than six million available jobs across the country. The opportunity is there, but the number of able-bodied adults stuck on food stamps is at crisis levels.
Voters are looking for reformers to craft a farm bill that restores the food stamp program as a temporary safety net, not a trap. To achieve success, the farm bill must include reforms that promote work for able-bodied adults, prioritize resources for the truly needy, and combat waste, fraud, and abuse.
Under current law, able-bodied adults without dependents are required to work, train, or volunteer at least part-time to receive food stamps. However, waivers from work requirements that were intended to provide flexibility in times of economic crisis have been abused — as a result, despite low unemployment rates, 62 percent of able-bodied, childless adults are exempt from work requirements. Work requirements are a proven and effective way to preserve resources for the truly needy and help individuals stuck in dependency regain their self-sufficiency, but they only work if actually implemented.