By April 5, 2018 Read More →

The Inter-Mountain editorial: Rule change on SNAP requirements go into effect this fall

The Inter-Mountain editorial

Handing out free food to anyone with income below a certain level, regardless of whether they are working or trying to find a job, makes no sense. It is what some refer to as a disincentive — a reward for not attempting to better oneself.

Yet for a few years, that is how we did things in West Virginia and, for that matter, in many other states.

Federal law requires that those receiving assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — food stamps — must be working, seeking work, engaged in community service or obtaining job training. Quite a few SNAP recipients, including those with children, older people and the disabled, are exempted.

But during the “Great Recession,” many states, including West Virginia, sought and were granted waivers from the work requirement. For a few years, virtually anyone meeting the SNAP income and asset guidelines could get food stamp assistance.

Things have changed. At the height of the recession, our state’s unemployment rate hit nearly 9 percent. It is 5.4 percent now. Though pockets of high joblessness remain, there is far more work available now than there was just a few years ago.

That prompted state legislators to reinstate the work requirement for SNAP recipients, effective Oct. 1. Gov. Jim Justice signed the measure into law last week.

Beginning this fall, able-bodied adults from 18-49 years of age and without dependents will have to be working, engaged in community service projects or receiving training to qualify for SNAP benefits.

Liberals went through the roof when the change — actually, just a reversion to commonly accepted practice of just a few years ago — was proposed.

Why?

Do the new/old rules discriminate against anyone? No.

Do they make life more difficult for poor parents with children? No.

Will they be a burden for older and/or disabled Mountain State residents? No, again.

The rules change boils down to just this:

If you are an adult West Virginian able to work and without dependents who rely on you being home, taxpayers will expect you to have a paying or volunteer job or get training to help you land one. There will be no food stamp benefits for those who choose not to work.

That may well be an incentive for some of them to inquire about those low-paying jobs they spurned in the past. It may be a path toward food stamps being a hand up rather than a handout.

If so, that could help get some West Virginians out of the vicious cycle of poverty — and that would be a good thing.

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