EPPC Scholar Submits Comment Opposing Proposed USDA Rule That Would Gut Work Requirements for Food Stamps Recipients

Published June 14, 2024


On June 14, 2024, EPPC scholar Jamie Bryan Hall submitted a public comment opposing key provisions of a USDA rule to implement changes to work requirements for food stamps recipients. The proposed rule purports to implement changes mandated by the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 (FRA), last summer’s bipartisan legislation that prevented the federal government from defaulting on its debt obligations. Changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—commonly known as food stamps—helped to gain support for the FRA’s passage. Congress intended to adjust which able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) would be subject to the work requirement, to better align these requirements with core American values. Congress and the President did not intend, on net, either to subject large numbers of additional ABAWDs to the work requirement or to exempt large numbers of additional ABAWDs from it.

Yet, as Hall explains, USDA’s proposed rule—along with its recommendations to States regarding implementation—would gut the SNAP work requirement:

USDA claims, “The proposed rule would implement changes to exceptions form the ABAWD work requirement and time limit in a way that closely adheres to the FRA’s statutory language.” However, in fact, for each of the three new exemption categories—veterans, homeless individuals, and former foster children—it substitutes an expansive definition of questionable legality. Then it openly discourages States from taking sensible steps to protect the interests of taxpayers in the face of potential increases in fraud following the adoption of these definitions.

Hall observes that USDA would, in effect, create “a de facto exemption from the ABAWD work requirement for anyone who is willing to lie.”

Furthermore, USDA proposes to delay by two years the implementation of an FRA provision specifically designed to rein in its abuse of a formula that provides States additional discretionary exemptions from the work requirement.

Hall urges USDA to reconsider these key provisions of the proposed rule and modify them in accordance with the statutory language and “in line with the spirit of bipartisan compromise with which the statute was written.”

Jamie Bryan Hall is the Director of Data Analysis and a fellow in the Life and Family Initiative at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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