A bill introduced in the House of Representatives illustrates just how far apart the two parties are when it comes to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Nutrition programs now account for more than 80% of farm bill spending. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R- S.D., introduced legislation aimed at cutting SNAP benefits to certain recipients. Under current law, ABAWDS, or abled bodied working adults without dependents, are required to work or participate in work-related training at least 20 hours per week if they are between the ages of 18 to 49. Johnson’s bill would increase the upper age limit to 65.
The bill would maintain a three-month limit on SNAP benefits for ABAWDs who work less than 80 hours per week. It would also limit the ability of states to issue work requirement exemptions based on individual circumstances.
“Work is the best pathway out of poverty,” Johnson said in a statement announcing the bill. “Work requirements have proven to be effective, and people who can work should work. With more than 11 million open jobs, there are plenty of opportunities for SNAP recipients to escape poverty and build a better life.”
Signing on as co-sponsors to the bill were fellow Republican House Agriculture Committee members Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, Mary Miller, R- Ill., Mark Alford, R-Mo., Lori Chavez-DeRemer, R-Ore., and Max Miller, R-Ohio, as well as Chuck Edwards, R-N.C., Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, Jake Ellzey, R-Texas, Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., August Pfluger, R- Texas, Josh Brecheen, R-Okla., Jen Kiggans, R-Va., Troy Nehls, R- Texas, Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., Andy Ogles, R-Tenn., Pat Fallon, R-Texas, Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., Randy Weber, R-Texas, Glenn Grothman, R-Wisc., Tim Walberg, R-Mich., Richard Hudson, R-N.C., Scott Franklin R-Fla., and Michael Cloud, R-Texas.
Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D- Texas, who serves on the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Foreign Agriculture and Horticulture, says Johnson’s proposed legislation is punitive and unnecessary. She points to a June 2021 National Bureau of Economic Research report that found harsh work requirements for safety net programs lead to increase obesity and malnutrition.
The report also concluded that strict work requirements disproportionately target homeless adults without showing any measurable effect on overall employment.
According to Crockett, House Democrats stand united in their defense of children, seniors and the disabled who receive a disproportionate share of SNAP benefits.
“I may be a freshman, but I was educated before these Republican bans on teaching history, so I am able to learn from it: Republicans try this every farm bill, and it always fails,” Crockett says. “Nutrition and farm programs have to move together or there is no bill, just as Chairman Thompson says. SNAP has massive benefits and passing this legislation would do massive harm.”
President Biden has indicated that he also hopes to reduce barriers to SNAP programs. However, with Republicans charge of the House, that may prove to be a daunting task.