Work Requirements are Cruel and Insulting to Those in Need

Tuesday, June 13th, 2023

During the debt ceiling negotiations, the topic of “work requirements” was front and center. While Medicaid went unscathed, SNAP and TANF requirements will now have stricter requirements, though not as strict as the original proposed house bill.

These changes were not about helping families, instead they harm those who most need our help.  Analysis from the Congressional Budget Office correctly indicates these changes may actually increase the cost of these public benefits.

“People who are struggling because of low-paying and unstable employment, trying to overcome disabilities, or taking care of their children or elderly parents are not lazy but in need of some assistance,” said attorney Jay Speer, VPLC Executive Director.  “It is insulting to call them lazy, either explicitly or implicitly.”

Both the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) already have strict work requirements. However, these requirements have been shown time and time again to be ineffective in lifting families out of poverty and do more harm than good to an already vulnerable population.

SNAP currently has a “work requirement” for individuals between the ages of 18 and 49 who do not have children. These individuals can only receive SNAP benefits for three months within a 36-month period if they work less than 20 hours a week. This means people who lose their jobs and cannot find another one within three months cannot retain their SNAP benefits, no matter how hard they search for employment. Individuals who have fluctuating hours struggle to provide the documentation necessary to remain on their SNAP benefits.  The struggle to afford necessities such as food, housing, and transportation makes finding employment even more challenging.

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