Congressional Republicans are proposing stricter work requirements for people who get food stamps. A new poll shows broad support for the changes.
Even though it’s called the farm bill, the biggest debate about the newest proposal will be changes to work requirements for people getting food stamps. Should the bill become law, adults ages 18 to 59 would be required to either work or attend job training classes for 20 hours weekly to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The disabled, pregnant and parents caring for kids under 6 would be exempt.
While the bill faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate, the latest poll funded by the nonpartisan Foundation for Government Accountability shows broad support from the public for the changes.
Leaning slightly Democratic, it found 82 percent support “requiring able-bodied, working-age adults to work or participate in a job training program at least part-time in order to receive food stamps.” Thirteen percent opposed.
“Whether it’s Republicans, Democrats or Independents, the public supports work requirements in exchange for public assistance,” FGA Senior Fellow Josh Archambault said.
Seventy-six percent said that work-for-welfare requirements should only be exempt in counties with unemployment levels at 10 percent or higher.
There are provisions in the proposed farm bill, per FGA officials, that would keep states from manipulating their unemployment data to receive a waiver from a work requirement, similar to what Illinois did.
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office said there were places in Illinois without the jobs to support a work requirement when they successfully acquired a waiver for non-working adults to receive food stamps.
FGA funded a similar poll in January, which produced similar results. The poll conducted last week by polling firm Cor Strategies Inc. contacted 524 randomly selected, likely voters nationwide.
According to the USDA, SNAP provided about $3.3 billion dollars in food benefits to an average of more than 2 million people in Illinois in fiscal 2015. FGA estimates that Illinois’ food stamp enrollment would fall by 317,800 people if the state was to place a work requirement on able-bodied adults to get the benefits.
Nationally, as many as 1 million people would be dropped from the program over 10 years, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.
Democrats have vowed to fight the proposal. It betrays “rural communities and working families across the nation,” said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
In Illinois, three of the top five congressional districts that relied on SNAP in 2015 were in Chicago. The rural districts were represented by Democrat Cheri Bustos and Republican Mike Bost.
The bill could be difficult to pass in the Senate since it would need 60 votes to pass.
The current farm bill expires Sept. 30. SNAP consists of 80 percent of the cost of the current bill.