One of the most contentious issues surrounding negotiations to raise the debt ceiling is whether the Biden administration will agree to stricter work requirements for those seeking food stamps and other safety net assistance.
The agreement reached this weekend included a compromise: It increases work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and cash assistance but does not change requirements for Medicaid. It expands food stamp access to veterans, the homeless and youth exiting the foster care system.
It remains to be seen whether that deal will hold up with progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy is championing the inclusion of work requirements as a victory, but more conservative members have criticized the compromise as not going far enough. Representative Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, called job requirements “Weak” Rep. Dan Bishop, Republican of North Carolina, classified the contract As a “betrayal”.
Biden Administrative officers Expanded access for veterans has been highlighted as a success. But liberal democrats and pro-poor activists criticize the changes as harsh and counterproductive. Research indicates It shows that existing requirements have little impact on employment.
Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington, called the work requirement provisions “absolutely terrible policy” on CNN on Sunday and said a vote on the resolution would require more careful scrutiny of the text of the deal.
Asked on Monday about the concerns raised by Ms. Jayapal and other progressive Democrats, President Biden said he “hasn’t had a chance to talk to her yet,” but asked critics to “talk to me.”
It’s unclear how the changes will affect the overall number of food stamp beneficiaries or how much money, if any, it will save the federal government. The White House said the changes would not significantly change the number of people subject to the requirements, suggesting a muted impact on government spending.
As part of the agreement, able-bodied adults age 54 and under and childless are required Participate in a work or training program for at least 80 hours per month To receive food stamps for a longer period of time. Otherwise, they can get benefits only for three months in a period of three years. Current work requirements apply to those 49 years of age and younger.
The deal exempts veterans, the homeless and youth transitioning out of foster care from those work requirements. Under the current law, exemptions are granted only to those who are unable to work due to physical or mental disability or pregnancy.
The debt ceiling deal requires the Agriculture Department to make public applications by states to waive work requirements for areas with high unemployment, and reduces the share of people a state can exempt to 8 percent of total beneficiaries from 12 percent.
Anti-poverty advocates applauded the additional exemptions, but lamented the decision to combine safety net programs with an expansion of work restrictions and a requirement to raise the nation’s credit limit.
“Making improvements for certain groups is positive, but that doesn’t justify harmful needs that hurt older people,” said Sharon Parrott, president of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
“Avoiding the debt ceiling could save the country from an economic disaster, but the compromise is wrong to push low-income, older Americans to pay such a heavy price,” said Eric Mitchell, executive director of the nonprofit group Alliance. He said in a statement that “End Hunger”. He said the expansion of work requirements “will cause too many older Americans to suffer needlessly from hunger and poverty.”
About 42.5 million people received SNAP benefits in February, compared to about 36.9 million in February 2020, the month before the spread of Covid-19 in the United States. Food stamp recipients receive an average estimate of $169. According to the Department of Agriculture, Managing the program.
Raising the working age will reduce the number of beneficiaries. The The Congressional Budget Office estimated Drastic changes proposed in a House Republican bill in April — which would have raised the age limit to 55 and more limited state rebates without new deductions — would have kicked about 275,000 people off food stamps and cut benefits for another 19,000.
But the new exemptions could put people on the food stamp rolls. A 2021 study by the Urban Institute estimated that adults subject to employment requirements More likely to be homeless than other SNAP beneficiaries. Waiver of work requirements could also increase the number of veterans using food stamps The current level is 1.1 million.
White House Estimated Those exemptions will compensate for increased age, leaving the number of adults subject to work requirements unchanged.
But focusing on the deal’s net impact on SNAP participation ignores the harm the requirements do to older adults, Ms. Barrett argued, calling such calculations a “low bar” for lawmakers.
“The reality is that it hurts a very disadvantaged group of people, and it’s not like we need to do that to make positive policies,” he said.
It’s also unclear how much of a budget impact these changes will have. CBO estimates that more restrictive changes to food stamps in the House Republican bill would reduce the federal deficit by about $11 billion over a decade. Changes to the deal will leave a small dent in the deficit.
In addition to changes to food stamps, the debt ceiling deal modifies work requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides cash assistance to families with children.
To receive federal funding for the program under current law, states must demonstrate that a certain percentage of adults in families receiving benefits work, attend job training, or otherwise participate. Other authorized “work activities.”
The deal changes the way states calculate those work participation rates and would make it more difficult for states to exempt families from the requirements, said Kathryn Hempstead, senior policy adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. But the deal created a small pilot program for states to test alternative models.
“The research is clear about the ineffectiveness of work requirements and the hardships they cause for people who depend on the social safety net,” Ms. Hempstead said, however, “this deal avoids some of the worst outcomes.”