Stiffer SNAP/Medicaid work requirements counterproductive, report says

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From “Medicaid Chart Pack,” Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.

Making people work more to get food stamps and health care is punitive and does more harm than good, according to a research paper published this week by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the Center for American Progress (CAP).

The Trump administration has been aggressively encouraging states to stiffen work requirements for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid, and has approved more stringent work requirement proposals in several states. Earlier this year Nevada Republican candidate for governor Adam Laxalt told a Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist that “I would absolutely sign on to the work requirements.”

More than half of nonelderly, nondisabled adults who receive SNAP and Medicaid are working already, the EPI/CAP report said, “and that share is increasing over time.”

A separate report from the Kaiser Family Foundation earlier this year found that 60 percent of adult Medicaid recipients nationally are already working.

More stringent work requirements “ignore labor market realities,” particularly high churn in low-wage jobs, the EPI/CAP research paper said. New requirements “will not meaningfully increase the employment rate of these workers, and will harm … workers in low-paying and volatile occupations.”

As of May, 660,000 Nevadans were on Medicaid. Most of them are mothers and children or the aged, blind and disabled.

“If policymakers were acting in good faith and actually wanted to increase stable employment opportunities for these workers, they would instead consider policies that aim to make work pay better and that provide supports such as paid leave and child care,” said EPI Research Director Matt Bevins, a co-author of the report.

“Snap and Medicaid provide a basic floor of protection that helps ensure that all families, including ones with workers in low-paying and often volatile occupations, have access to decent food and heath care.” added CAP senior fellow and co-author Shawn Fremsted.

The largest employment sectors in Nevada are “accommodation and food service,” followed by retail. Both sectors are frequently characterized by low wages, few if any benefits, unstable or erratic schedules, and high churn.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.

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