March 01, 2018

With SNAP Under Attack, Warren, Blumenthal, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Ensure Recipients Seeking Employment Don't Unfairly Lose Benefits

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced legislation today to support Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients with job training and resources to seek employment opportunities. The bill introduction follows a Trump Administration proposal to severely cut SNAP benefits by $17 billion in 2019, and restructure the program to replace vouchers with “Blue Apron-type” boxes of food.

 “SNAP is a lifeline for millions of Americans – including hundreds of thousands of our veterans,” said Warren. “No family should have to struggle to put food on the table and no child should have to go to bed hungry. I’m glad to work with my colleagues to strengthen this vital program, not tear it apart.”

 The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 currently limits able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) to three months of SNAP benefits in a three year period unless they work at least 20 hours a week or are enrolled in a workfare or job training program. However, most states don’t offer enough employment or work training programs to provide an opportunity for each ABAWD, so many individuals end up losing crucial benefits even if they willingly and earnestly search for work. As a result, the loss of this vital assistance makes it more difficult for vulnerable individuals to afford food and find jobs, especially in places that have high unemployment rates.

 The SNAP Work Opportunities and Veteran Protection Act of 2018 would expand existing work opportunities to all ABAWDs, including to veterans that participate in certain Department of Veterans Affairs programs, so they can better access employment opportunities without the fear of losing SNAP benefits.

  “Congress must ensure that SNAP recipients who are actively seeking employment are not unfairly stripped of their benefits simply due to lack of availability in job placement programs,” said Blumenthal. “That includes our veterans, whose sacrifices for our country must be met with nothing less than the most robust support Congress can offer as they transition from the military to the civilian workforce.”

“Nearly 443,000 people across Connecticut rely on SNAP to keep from going hungry. But some adults, including veterans, get kicked out of the program and left without food assistance in just three months. It’s unfair, and it makes it even more difficult for folks to get back on their feet and put food on the table,” said Murphy. “We’re introducing the SNAP Work Opportunities and Veteran Protection Act to make sure this can’t happen again.”

 “Americans who are earnestly searching for work should not be unfairly restricted from accessing SNAP benefits because their state lacks sufficient placements in job training programs. It is cruel to deny food security to those who are doing everything they can to get a job. We must ensure that willing job seekers are not limited from receiving these critical benefits due to circumstances beyond their control,” said Markey.

 “Too many individuals across the country lose access to nutrition assistance from SNAP benefits because of rigid work requirements. We need to ensure that families across the country can get back on their feet without going hungry. This legislation will allow SNAP recipients to continue to receive nutrition assistance until they have access to job training programs, and ensures that veterans participating in employment and rehabilitation programs are not denied benefits,” said Hirono.

 “In 2015 SNAP kept about 8.4 million people out of poverty including 3.8 million children. At a time when the top 1 percent is doing phenomenally well and more than 40 million people are living in poverty, we should be expanding programs that lift people out of poverty, not making those programs even harder to access,” said Sanders.

 The SNAP Work Opportunities and Veteran Protection Act would:

 Require states to offer enough placements in a job training or workfare program to cover all ABAWDs to ensure that none are unfairly ineligible for food stamps;

  • Ensure ABAWDs would continue to receive SNAP benefits in the event that there are not enough spaces to cover all ABAWDs looking for work;
  • Make veterans participating in a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program for employment, compensated work therapy, mental health or physical rehabilitation, or transition, eligible for a waiver and exempt from the 3-month limitation on SNAP benefits.

The legislation is supported by a number of advocacy groups, including MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

 “Some Members of Congress are proposing even harsher SNAP work requirements than currently exist without regard for the real availability of job training programs in these communities,” said Abby J. Leibman, president and CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “This common-sense proposal will be a lifeline for Americans—including our nation’s veterans—who are doing their best to survive while they struggle to find work.”