During the GOP’s failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Paul Ryan introduced an amendment to their bill that would have added work requirements to Medicaid—a cherished conservative requirement that the GOP have been trying to expand for decades.
House Representative Glenn Grothman has introduced a bill to strengthen work requirements to SNAP, our country’s food stamp program. The justification for amping up work requirements, courtesy of Representative Jodey Arrington, is that God Said So.
Work requirements for benefits don’t work, says Clio Chang, at least not the way conservatives say they do. Here’s why: most people need to be healthy to find jobs and “kicking them off our country’s already-meager safety net won’t help them.” First and foremost, people need to eat.
Second, the racist stereotype of deadbeat benefit recipients that Republicans often try to promote is all wrong. Most Americans on SNAP are unemployed because they face barriers that make it hard for them to find work. “Local surveys of SNAP users have shown that many adults who are not working have recently been released from jail” reports the Washington Post, “or are homeless, veterans, noncustodial parents, people with undiagnosed mental illnesses and teenagers aging out of the foster care system.”
What’s more, Chang points out, most working age adults who are not disabled already must fulfill work requirements in order to receive SNAP, thanks to GOP-driven welfare reform in the 1990’s under President Bill Clinton.
“Poor people in our country already have to use a patchy network of benefits (cash assistance is nearly nonexistent) just to get by—many even while working a full-time job,” says Chang.
The GOP’s current bill would eliminate a measure introduced during the recession by the Obama administration, which allows the Secretary of Agriculture to waive these requirements. Once again, the GOP is hard at work addressing petty grievances of their megadonors without any compassion or regard for Americans who are truly suffering.