EPIC Report: Strengthen Food Stamp Work Requirements to Promote Opportunity

13 million able-bodied adults received Food Stamp benefits on average between 2017 and 2019, yet 62% of these work-capable recipients did not work at all.

Under current law, Food Stamp work requirements only apply to fewer than 4 million able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs), just 9% of Food Stamp recipients.

Just 18% of ABAWDs age 18-49 worked at least 20 hours per week to meet the work requirement through employment.

The Food Stamp work requirements are limited, weak, and are currently waived completely or in parts of 34 states.

Source: USDA

Work Requirements Work

Work is an essential American value. It is a positive good for individuals, families, communities, and our nation.

Offering a hand up and not just a handout would ensure better results for everyone: recipients who are put on a path towards self-sufficiency, the truly needy for whom a safety net is safeguarded, and the taxpayers whose funds are used more efficiently and effectively.

When work requirements are enforced, the number of able-bodied adults on the welfare rolls fall, time on welfare is reduced, people reenter the workforce, and incomes increase.

There are about 2.3 million more job openings in America than unemployed individuals and the unemployment rate is low. Too many able-bodied adults being completely out of the workforce is a major problem for the economy.

Work requirements are overwhelmingly popular: 79.5% of voters on a 2023 Wisconsin ballot referendum supported work requirements.

What Should Congress Do?

Congress should continue the important work of welfare reform to strengthen work requirements and promote opportunity.

  • Eliminate geographic waivers of work requirements.
  • Implement work requirements for all work-capable adults, including parents.
  • Expand the age applicability of work requirements to include prime able-bodied working-age adults.
  • Expand the hours of effort requirement from the current just 20 hours per week expectation.
  • Prevent a lifetime of dependency by ensuring the safety net is temporary for work capable adults.

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Compare the Legislative Proposals

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Biden’s Unilateral Food Stamp Benefit Increase

EPIC Explainer: The $1 Trillion Welfare Bureaucracy

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