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Cracking down on food stamps: USDA asking for ideas to get people off SNAP

Posted at 4:39 AM, Feb 23, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Thursday that it is looking for ways to transition some people off of the department's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Specifically, the USDA is looking at beneficiaries who are not disabled and who don't have any dependents.

“Long-term dependency has never been part of the American dream,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “USDA’s goal is to move individuals and families from SNAP back to the workforce as the best long-term solution to poverty. Everyone who receives SNAP deserves an opportunity to become self-sufficient and build a productive, independent life.”

Related: Trump administration proposes Blue Apron-style overhaul for food stamps

The USDA is inviting the public to give their ideas and input starting Friday through a notice in the Federal Register. USDA intends to use the input received to find improvements to SNAP policy and related services that can best assist SNAP participants to return to self-sufficiency. The comment period will be open through April 9, 2018. Click here to provide your input.

Federal law limits the amount of time an able-bodied adult without dependents can receive SNAP benefits to three months in a 36-month period, unless the individual is working or participating in a work program half-time or more, or participating in workfare.

The law exempts individuals from the time limit for several reasons, including age, unfitness for work, or having a dependent child. The law also provides state agencies with flexibility to request a waiver of this time limit if unemployment is high or the area does not have a sufficient number of jobs to provide employment, according to USDA.

“Too many states have asked to waive work requirements, abdicating their responsibility to move participants to self-sufficiency. Past decisions may have been the easy short-term choice, but USDA policies must change if they contribute to a long-term failure for many SNAP participants and their families,” Perdue said. 

Related: Petition asks for food stamps to pay for pet food

The President’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Proposal, released on Feb. 12, proposes to limit waivers of the time limit for able-bodied adult without dependents to counties with 10 percent unemployment over 12 months.

“The SNAP safety net must be there for those unable to work due to disability or another legitimate reason,” Perdue said. “But for the able-bodied, we must reduce barriers to work, and hold both individuals and states accountable for participants getting and keeping jobs.”

Mary Stringini is a Digital Producer for ABC Action News. Follow her on Twitter @MaryWFTS.