Wednesday, October 5, 2016

SNAP Requirements for Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents

September 17, 2016

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, gives low income families and individuals a monthly payment so they can afford to buy food. There are some requirements that you must meet in order to qualify for receiving SNAP benefits. In order to be eligible for these benefits, you would have to report your monthly income and certain other expenses, and then a caseworker would decide if you qualified as low income, and would use a formula to determine your benefit level. A person who is applying for these benefits must register for work if they are a healthy adult, be fired by no fault of their own, take a job if they are offered one, and participate in employment and training programs assigned by the State. Able bodied adults who have no dependents are required to have a job that gives them a minimum of twenty hours a week. If the person does not follow the requirements, they can be disqualified for these benefits.

I believe that the requirements to be eligible for SNAP benefits are too lenient. When people apply for these benefits, they should have a decent, stable job. If they do not have a job, or they are not at least trying to get one, then they should not receive the benefits because that job could give them more money a month than SNAP would. With that job, they could afford food to feed their families. The people who receive these benefits without trying to better themselves, take the help away from the people with good jobs who just do not make enough money to provide for their families as they would like to. I also think that there should be background checks and drug tests that are done. If people can afford to buy drugs and alcohol, they could just save that money instead. With the money that they would usually spend on drugs and alcohol, they could go to the store and buy some food for their families to eat.

In my opinion, the requirements for the SNAP program should have stricter guidelines. People who want to receive these benefits should have a stable job, continuously try to better themselves, and have regular background checks and drug tests done. This would insure that everyone receiving these benefits truly need them. 

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). (n.d.). Retrieved September 17, 2016, from

You seem to be referring to the work rules for able-bodied adults without dependents.  Some of these rules are explained by the USDA on this webpage.   I will share some passages from that page: 

ABAWDs can only get SNAP for 3 months in 3 years if they do not meet certain special work requirements. This is called the time limit.  
 To be eligible beyond the time limit, an ABAWD must work at least 80 hours per month, participate in qualifying education and training activities at least 80 hours per month, or comply with a workfare program.  Workfare means that ABAWDs can do unpaid work through a special State-approved program. For workfare, the amount of time worked depends on the amount of benefits received each month.  Another way one to fulfill the ABAWD work requirement is through a SNAP Employment and Training Program. 
The time limit does not apply to people who are unable to work due to physical or mental health reasons, pregnant, care for a child or incapacitated family member, or are exempt from the general work requirements.
So, able-bodied adults are able to get food through SNAP for three months in any three-year period, and then it is cut off unless they meet one of three requirements:
  1.  Have part-time work so they get paid for at least 80 hours a month of labor.
  2.  Be participating in education or training activities at least half-time (80 hours per month)
  3.  Be participating in a workfare ("work for food") sort of scheme, such as a SNAP Employment and Training Program. (Participants do get paid with money, not just SNAP benefits.)
There are also exceptions for able-bodied adults (if they are 50 years old or older, or if they have caregiving responsibilities for children or elderly persons).  And persons who aren't able-bodied adults (children, the elderly, or adults who are disable or sick or mentally ill) also are excused from the work requirements. 

You seem to object to the idea that any able-bodied adult would get three months of SNAP benefits in any three-year period, unless they were actively seeking employment. But isn't it the case that people will fall on hard times in transitional periods of their lives? The able-bodied adults who seek SNAP benefits may have recently been laid off, and are actively trying to relocate, or have just relocated, to a new area where employment prospects are better.  It might take a few months to research where to go and find a place to live before one could start a job search in earnest.  Also, adults who receive SNAP benefits do tend to be working already.  To quote from the website about SNAP:
Among households that include someone who is able to work, more than 75 percent* had a job  in year before or after receiving SNAP.  Forty-three percent of SNAP participants live in a household with earnings.  
So, for 75% of able-bodied recipients of SNAP, they have recently worked or soon start working again, and SNAP is there to help them during a transitional time, or else they were low-wage earners and had SNAP, and their SNAP benefits increased temporarily while they were between jobs.  You are concerned about the 25% of SNAP recipients who are able-bodied but have not worked in the past year, and do not work in the year following their time receiving SNAP.

If you are concerned about the 57% of SNAP participants living in households with no earnings, you must remember that this population will be made up mostly of households with single parents and children who need caregiving attention from their parent, or households with a disabled or chronically ill person, or households of elderly persons or persons with mental illnesses.  And many of individuals who get SNAP benefits are children who are too young to work.

As for people with limited resources wasting some of those resources on things that are injurious to their health or possibly illegal, it is true that escapism and problem-avoidance (using substances to get intoxicated) seem common among persons who have poor life skills and end up unemployed or fired from their work.  It's also true that even potentially good employees can turn to bad coping mechanisms when they are feeling depressed or in a bad situation (getting laid off or fired is pretty stressful).  Sometimes in a situation like that, a friend might treat a person to a little party where people get intoxicated.  And, yes, some people are going to get addicted and that may be where their resources go.

It's important to remember that in testing so many people to find and punish those who use drugs, there will be extra costs for administering the tests, doing the lab work, and then the administrative processing when lab tests are positive.  People will need to be able to appeal, because there can be false positives, or explanations for why certain chemicals might turn up in tests.  All the administrative costs associated with tightening the level of investigation of the poor is unlikely to save money for the program.  On the other hand, people who receive benefits (most of whom do not drink or use drugs) might be especially humiliated and upset at the undignified way they are accused of potentially being drug users, and that might be something you want, if your primary goal is to save money, and the spirit of "unreasonable search and seizure" in the Constitution doesn't seem to you a very important right (because you would like to suspend that constitutional right for poor persons as a price they must pay to receive public assistance).

I think in terms of a justice-centered morality, there really isn't any argument against a position that people who could work ought to work rather than collect benefits taken from those who are working. The strongest argument against that proposition is merely conditional.  It goes like this: in our particular society, those who could work ought to be given the freedom to find work that suits them, and while they are looking for such work, they ought to be able to rely on assistance from the working population.  This is proposed as a good thing because of a counter claim about the justice of freedom from oppression.  If able-bodied workers must quickly take jobs, they will be more at the mercy of the owners and capitalists who offer them work, and that will depress the general conditions of workers everywhere, and certainly it does curtail the freedom of the workers who must take unsatisfactory jobs because there is no welfare aid for them when they are able-bodied adults.   In a society where everyone can easily find satisfying work that suits them, then the proposition that able-bodied adults ought to work rather than collect benefits is pretty unassailable, although we might ask how much work effort we really need and expect from them.  But in our society, where many people have great difficulty finding rewarding or suitable work, and the people who control the economy maintain a level of unemployment rate that allows wages to be lower and workers to be a little more desperate and fearful of losing the favor (and their jobs) from their employers... in this actual society there is an argument against your position, but the argument is contextual, not fundamental. 

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