Trump Administration Announces Intent to Require Additional Work Requirements for SNAP Benefits

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced, at the request of President Donald Trump, an intent to impose additional work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Under current law, able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) are individuals 18 to 49 who is not elderly, a woman who is pregnant, or someone with a disability. ABAWDs are required to work 20 hours per week or be in a job training program if they receive SNAP benefits for more than three months in a three-year period. Current regulations allow states to waive this requirement for up to two years in areas with unemployment rates that are at least 20 percent greater than the national rate.

Under the proposed rules released on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) states could waive the work requirement only in areas where unemployment is above seven percent. The USDA is also proposing to limit these state-based waivers to one year and remove the ability for states to “carryover” ABAWD waiver exemptions they have earned from year-to-year. According to the USDA, the provisions included in the proposed rule could reduce areas that qualify for waivers by approximately 75 percent, impacting nearly three-quarters of a million SNAP recipients.

Thursday’s announcement came just hours before President Trump signed the $867 billion farm bill that governs all agricultural-related programs, including SNAP and SNAP-Ed. Recall, the legislation passed by Congress did not include significant modifications to SNAP as initially proposed in the House of Representatives’ version of the farm bill. With Thursday’s announcement on the forthcoming proposed rule, the Trump Administration is ostensibly sidestepping Congress after tougher SNAP requirements were not included in the farm bill.

The proposed rule must be published in the Federal Register and undergo a 60-day public comment period which is expected to begin in the coming weeks. The proposed rule to be published in the Federal Register is available here and a USDA fact sheet on the proposed changes is available here.