Should food stamp recipients be required to work?

Some House Republicans are pushing that notion. However, the majority of able-bodied recipients already have jobs.

By Aimee Picchi Jul 25, 2013 12:33PM

A sign on a frozen food case indicates that food stamps are accepted at the Dollar General Corp. store in Saddle Brook, New Jersey (© Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)The food stamp benefit has swelled into a $75 billion-a-year program, given to about one in seven Americans last year. 

Those numbers are even more shocking considering the program's growth: A decade ago, only only about one in 12 Americans received food stamps, requiring the government to spend just $21.4 billion in 2003. 

With that kind of surge in spending, no wonder Republicans are aiming at the program. Their latest push focuses on requiring food stamp recipients to hold a job.

House Republicans are mulling a work requirement, The Associated Press reports, and the lawmakers met Wednesday to discuss how to cut spending on the benefit, called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

One proposal would enable states to test work requirements, although it would be optional. "I think you have to have moral reformation before you have fiscal reformation," said Rep. Steve Southerland, R.-Fla., who made the proposal. 

While any benefits program is certain to have fraud, Southerland's comment appears to suggest that food stamp recipients are happy to receive government aid while kicking back and enjoying the good life. (Remember, the average food stamp benefit shells out just $133 per month, not exactly enough for a caviar-and-champagne lifestyle.) 

But the majority of able-bodied, working-age food stamp recipients already work, according to a January analysis of the program from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Some beneficiaries might be your cashiers and stockers at Wal-Mart (WMT), given that a recent report from congressional Democrats estimated a single low-paying Wal-Mart superstore costs taxpayers as much as $1.7 million per year in public benefits. 

Take a look at households with at least one working-age, nondisabled adult. The CBPP report showed about 58% were employed within a month of receiving the benefit, while 82% were either working in the year before or after they received the aid. 

And the number of people who work while receiving the benefit has increased for more than a decade. About 6.4 million recipients worked in 2011, up from 2 million in 2000, the study found. That indicates many Americans applied for the benefit during the Great Recession, which led to underemployment or households getting hit with layoffs or a cut in their hours, the study noted. 

Of course, across the entire spectrum of food stamp recipients, it's clear why critics are alarmed at the statistics, given that nearly 37.9 million recipients weren't working in 2011. But almost half of those are children -- and not expected to work -- while an additional 23% were elderly, disabled or caring for a disabled family member. 

"Most SNAP participants are either not expected to work or are working," the CBPP noted, adding, "There is not evidence that SNAP receipt creates work disincentives."

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi. 

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Jul 25, 2013 1:54PM
Yes, or provide some sort of community service. Pisses me off to no end when I see someone Food shopping, paying with Food Stamps while talking on their IPhone and rolling their groceries out to a new Lexus or Escalade which is usually parked in the "Handicapped Space" yet they can walk to the other side of the shopping mall to hit the liquor store without the need for a wheelchair, scooter, walker, cane without any signs of being physically impaired in the least. And sometimes they are even chasing 1 of the 8 kids around the store trying to lay a beating on them.

Jul 25, 2013 1:29PM
Oh no.....just send 'em a free check and let 'em stay home, hit the bong and knock the boots.  Meanwhile, I'll continue to commute 85 miles a day and get taxed out my ****.  Not a problem.  The best part is when I hear the phrase "jobs Americans won't do".
Jul 25, 2013 2:03PM
I still say drug testing for anyone receiving anything from the government is a great start!!! Sure it costs money to do it but the savings would by far be way higher!! I very high percentage of people drawing government aid are on drugs!!! JUST DO IT!!!
Jul 25, 2013 1:56PM
Unfortunately there's people out there using the system as a way of life.2nd and 3rd generations taught how to get as much as you can and give nothing back. Milking it for every dime and dollar they can get free and using their money for frivolous things.
Jul 25, 2013 1:56PM
I have to work to feed my self, so hell ya make them work like everyone else!!
Jul 25, 2013 2:03PM
Every day I see people buy drinks and junk food with their food stamps and then turn around and buy beer, cigarettes and lottery tickets with cash. They usually have two cell phones, manicures and fancy hairdos. Meanwhile I have to work two jobs, one of which is law enforcement just to get by.
Jul 25, 2013 1:53PM

I saw woman at Dollar store using food card for Beer.. I was angry, as my mother  91

has to fill out 17 pages of paperwork  twice a year for her food of $25 a week.

Jul 25, 2013 1:28PM
in cooperation with the state, everybody meets at a  state  maintanence building nearest the closest interstate. each person is given a pair of work gloves and 20 large trash bags. starting at 8am and finishing by 1pm picking up trash. there is more than enough trash to keep everyone busy. state prisoners here in florida allready do this service. extend this program to out of work teens. pay the teens minimum wage, no benefits.
Jul 25, 2013 1:56PM
I completely agree with this! I'd also like to add,those folks collecting are probably getting more If they have kids!!! I also think they should add,a NO FAST FOOD purchases on food stamps! Buy Healthy or don't buy at all! by allowing poor food choices,you are encouraging these folks to maintain poor health,then all of sudden these folks need more medical attention,than those who made smart food choices! so then the Medical insurnace,insurers,and the cost get maxxed out! DUH!
Jul 25, 2013 12:54PM
More rewards to those that vote for a living.
Jul 25, 2013 1:19PM

End the program, send them all back the 6th grade to repeat school, let the K12 feed them. They need to repeat school as they can't even feed themselves or control their reproduction.


Enough of keep these people alive just for votes.

Jul 25, 2013 1:46PM
My step-son used his food stamps to pay for drugs at -- wait for it -- "Drug rehab program". The director said it happens every day. The program helps them with transition, and thte snap program supports the habit! What a great country.
Jul 25, 2013 1:48PM
Good all us WORKER'S are still at it or you freeloaders would dry up !
Jul 25, 2013 12:49PM



 Up to 1.7 MILLION for one recipient for maybe 12000 in benefits. Libs tell the world again how the federal gov't. is efficiently running anything.

Jul 25, 2013 2:05PM

you should be required to log community service for food stamps......clean parks, pick up trash on the highway, volunteer at senior centers, etc...I think this is much better than giving people money because they suck at life.....maybe they can gain appreciation and perspective by donating time for food

Jul 25, 2013 1:51PM
Why are we focusing on the end users and not the lobbiest and politicians who listen to them, regarding what can be included in the SNAP program?
Jul 25, 2013 1:33PM
Should Wal-Mart be required to sell goods made in the USA?
Jul 25, 2013 1:56PM
OK  job creators, time to do your part.
Jul 25, 2013 1:02PM
A requirement to work would only be able to work if the government provided job assistance for the people receiving benefits. With average benefits of $133 a month it is unlikely that many of them have work attire and have reliable transportation (not all areas have public transportation options). Instead of requiring work for benefits increase the amount of people who verify that recipients are in fact comping with program requirements. This would help eliminate fraud and people are are found committing fraud will be excluded from all government assistance.
Jul 25, 2013 1:06PM
Why do most people support corporate welfare (special tax exemptions, deductions, bailouts,  and subsidies) that only benefit a few rich but are against programs that give a little ($133 a month) to many poor? I understand that there is a lot of fraud on government programs but their is far more corporate fraud. For example the CEO at my company Polycom submitted expense reports with "irregularities" and resigned. Part of his resignation package was $500,00, 12 months pay, and he could keep all the company equipment he used. So if a CEO commits fraud he is rewarded but we vilify the poor for wanting basic food stuffs.
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