Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says he’d like to restore the “original intent” of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. During a Senate hearing last week, he called it a “second chance, not a way of life.”
The Secretary’s comments came after the USDA published a proposed rule in the Federal Register to move more able-bodied SNAP recipients to self-sufficiency by working. The rule aims to restore what the system was meant to be, assistance through difficult times rather than lifelong dependency. The proposed rule focuses on work-related program requirements for able-bodied adults that don’t have dependents. It would apply to people between ages 18 and 49 who aren’t disabled and don’t have dependents.
The rule would not apply to the disabled, pregnant women, or the elderly. Those who are eligible to receive SNAP benefits, including the underemployed, would still qualify. There haven’t been any statutory changes to the welfare reform legislation that was signed in 1996. However, an abuse of administrative flexibility in the SNAP program has undermined the idea of self-sufficiency through work.
During the Senate hearing, Perdue said, “We do not believe in states where the unemployment is four percent that able-bodied-adults without dependents should be able to stay on food assistance interminably.”