GOP food stamp bill could force state to hire 900 people

SNAP and Medicaid around here
Google street view image of the state Department of Welfare & Support Services.

The farm bill that passed the U.S. House in July would throw an estimated 13,000 Nevadans off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)— more commonly known as food stamps — while forcing the state to hire as many as 900 more case managers to administer new work and training requirements.

The legislation, currently stalled in the Senate, would tighten SNAP income eligibility requirements while imposing stricter work and/or training requirements on “able-bodied” recipients between the ages of 18 and 49. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers SNAP, there were roughly 138,000 households, comprising nearly 440,000 individual men, women and children benefitting from SNAP in Nevada in 2016.

Many — about 44 percent — are households with children 18 years or younger. Children 15 years or younger and parents or other household members responsible for the care of a child under age 6 are exempt from work or training requirements. Seniors and the disabled, other large groups of Nevada SNAP recipients, are also exempt.

Some 70,500 individual adult SNAP recipients are not exempt, however. Some of them — about 12,700 — are already monitored in state case management programs. Driven by federal funding constraints, current law does not require states to monitor working and training program participation if applicants meet income requirements. The stricter standards would require the state to case manage an additional 57,800 people.

“Our current staffing for the SNAP Employment and Training program is five and a half case managers,” wrote Julie Balderson, a social services specialist for the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services, in an email. DWSS cannot serve the additional recipients without additional staffing. In order to serve the additional SNAP recipients, DWSS would need approximately 850-900 more case managers in the SNAP Employment and Training program.”

DWSS does not have an estimate as to how much that would cost the state.

The proposed House bill would increase grant funding for states to offset increased case management costs, but Balderson said the increase would not be sufficient to cover the cost of additional staff needed to comply with the new requirements.

“I wouldn’t even begin to speculate what would happen (without more funding to cover requirements) other than we would probably be facing sanctions from our federal entity for not complying with the mandatory rule,” said Balderson.

Additionally, participation hours of an individual in the state SNAP Employment and Training program is not currently tracked, adding an extra cost to the state’s administrative burden. Under the House bill, the current 20 hour per week work requirement would rise to 25 hours overs over three years.

For decades, workers have had to cope with increasingly unstable and precarious job schedules, especially in low-income service industry occupations. Scheduling became even more unstable, and that instability more entrenched in the workforce, during the great recession.

Meanwhile, when people struggle with financial barriers to employment, such as the cost of transportation and appropriate work attire, SNAP supportive services help cover the costs. That service is funded through a 50/50 match of state and federal funds.

Currently, if DWSS is unable to provide such sufficient supportive services to program participants, the recipients are exempted from the work requirement. That would change if the House bill passes, disenfranchizing the poorest SNAP participants.  

Last month, President Trump weighed in, via tweet, suggesting he is eager to sign a farm bill with tougher SNAP work requirements attached.

“The Trump Economy is booming with the help of House and Senate GOP. #FarmBill with SNAP work requirements will bolster farmers and get America back to work. Pass the Farm Bill with SNAP work requirements!”

Republican Rep. Mark Amodei, who voted in favor of the House bill, said through a spokesman that his office had not been contacted by anyone regarding the additional burdens the House bill would put on the state.

“One of the reasons I opposed the Republican Farm Bill is because it would create a burdensome workforce bureaucracy for states that is bankrolled by kicking SNAP recipients off the program,” said Democratic Rep. Dina Titus in a statement. “Instead of making it easier for struggling families to put food on the table, the Republican Farm Bill makes these families even more vulnerable to hunger.”

A policy brief by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that about 107,000 non-disabled adults without kids under 6 in Nevada would have potentially been subject to the work requirements in the House version of the bill if it had been in effect in 2016.

About 90,000 of those SNAP recipients would not have been meeting the 20-hour work requirement. The penalty for not meeting the requirements would mean being locked out of benefits for up to three years.

Jeniffer Solis
Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.

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