Debt Ceiling Deal Changes SNAP Work Requirements: What You Need to Know

Debt Ceiling Deal Changes SNAP Work Requirements

Introduction

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) work requirements underwent changes with the recent debt ceiling deal. This move has created quite a buzz in the political world, with experts divided on whether it will cause more harm than good. The changes are expected to cut spending and reduce the number of people who qualify for assistance. In this article, we take a closer look at what the new work requirements entail and what they mean for low-income older Americans who need food assistance.

SNAP Work Requirements

SNAP already has work requirements for most adults ages 18 through 49 who do not have children. Those beneficiaries may only qualify for benefits for three months in a three-year period unless they meet certain eligibility requirements. That includes being able to show they are either working or participating in job training for 20 hours per week. They may otherwise still qualify if they fall under an exemption category, such as if they are pregnant, disabled or have a physical or mental condition that prevents them from working.

Changes in the Debt Ceiling Deal

The new legislation raises the ages for those requirements to include childless workers ages 50 to 54. The law would gradually phase in those workers by age, starting with those age 50 from 90 days after the law is enacted and eventually expanding to include 53- and 54-year-olds in 2024. The requirements would be effective through Oct. 1, 2030. The legislation also adds new categories of workers who are exempt from the work reporting requirements, including those who are homeless, veterans or those who were in the foster care system.

Cuts May Create ‘A Quiet Struggle’

The changes will cut spending on SNAP, including how many people qualify for assistance. In a Sunday interview with Fox News, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., touted the new work requirements as a win for welfare reform in the debt ceiling deal. “We got it in welfare that puts people back to work, the core of what we looked for,” McCarthy said. But some experts are concerned about the effects the moves may have on families in need.

Ed Bolen, director of SNAP state strategies at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said it is “upsetting” to see the changes included in the debt ceiling legislation. “You’re not going to balance the budget, much less pay down the debt, through these kinds of changes,” Bolen said. “On the other hand, you’re going to affect up to 750,000 low-income older Americans who need food assistance.”

Drop in SNAP Benefits May Hurt in Other Ways

The new requirements also introduce other challenges, experts note. SNAP is meant to help provide support to people who may be struggling to find work, Bolen noted. Expanded work requirements may make it tougher for older workers to find support at the same time they may encounter discrimination when trying to reenter the work force, he said.

Moreover, it may also be difficult for beneficiaries to prove they fall under the new exemption categories, particularly for those who are homeless, he said.

Ultimately, a decline in SNAP benefits may also hurt the economy, according to Ellen Vollinger, SNAP director at the Food Research and Action Center. For every dollar of SNAP during a downturn, estimates have found there is an economic generator of about $1.50 to $1.80, she said. Research also shows that SNAP benefits help support jobs in the farming sector, trucking industry and grocery stores, Vollinger said.

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