Davis Seeks More Information on 101 IL Counties Exempted from SNAP Work Requirements
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today sent a letter to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner requesting further information about a waiver the State of Illinois submitted in November to exempt every county except for one from work requirements within the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP).
“The biggest concern I hear right now from employers is the inability to hire for the jobs they have available,” said Davis. “These are good paying jobs that we need taken to keep our economy growing and they’re jobs that help people get out of poverty. I want to make sure our state is doing everything they can to pair those who can work with these jobs. The Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents work requirement was a bipartisan initiative put in place during the Clinton Administration, but it seems states continue to exploit loopholes. Just because the rules allow it, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily what’s best for our our state so I’m hoping to get a little more clarification from Governor Rauner on the need for a waiver.”
Under current law, Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) who are are enrolled in the SNAP program have been subject to a work requirement since 1996, under President Clinton. This requirement is 80 hours per month of either working or workforce development activities such as SNAP Employment and Training. If that individual does not comply with the work requirement, they are limited to receiving SNAP benefits for 3 months in a 3 year period.
States can apply for a waiver from the time limit for ABAWDs if there are areas within the state that have an unemployment rate of over 10% or if there is a lack of sufficient jobs. In 2001, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) promulgated a final rule establishing that areas could qualify where the unemployment rate was 20% higher than the national average for 24 months. Additionally, the Obama Administration released further guidance in 2016 outlining how states could establish the need for waiver.
Davis fought for stricter work requirements and a nearly $1 billion a year investment in SNAP Employment and Training programs in the most recent farm bill. Unfortunately, these reforms were not included in the final bill.
Text of letter is as follows:
Dear Governor Rauner:
Last week, Congress passed with bipartisan support the 2018 Farm Bill. During debate of the bill, Congress gave much attention to the role of work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. While the final conference report did not include the House passed measures related to tightened work requirements and the historic investment in workforce development through SNAP Employment and Training (SNAP E&T), it left open the ability of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reassess the regulations governing Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs).
ABAWDs are defined as individuals between the ages of 18-49 without children or disability. Under current law, for 80 hours per month, this population is generally required to either work or participate in workforce development activities, such as SNAP E&T. If an ABAWD fails to meet this requirement, they may only receive SNAP for 3 months in a 3 year period. As you know, States may request waivers from this ABAWD time limit—and subsequently the work requirement— in geographic areas where there is a lack of sufficient jobs or where unemployment reaches certain levels.
On November 15th, 2018, your administration submitted to USDA a request to waive the ABAWD time limit in 101 of Illinois’ 102 counties for 2019. As our economy continues to rebound from the lows of the Great Recession, I continually hear from employers that their biggest issue is a lack of workforce. Now is the time we should be encouraging individuals to seek employment, not solidifying a reliance on government assistance.
In light of your administration’s waiver request, what justifications did your administration provide in seeking the waiver? While individuals should not be penalized if jobs are unavailable, recent concerns highlight the potential to circumvent current regulations to maximize the size of the area covered by waivers. As such, it seems expedient that the 5.5% unemployment threshold necessary to support a claim for waiver under the regulations is met when one combines all counties, with the exception of DuPage County.
Additionally, as we look to the future of SNAP and workforce development, how many individuals currently participate statewide in the SNAP E&T program? Furthermore, what steps has your administration taken to encourage SNAP recipients to seek employment?
As we look to the future of our country, and the well-being of its citizens, we should embrace a vision of self-sufficiency – a vision in which capable individuals can achieve the American Dream and be free of government reliance. I thank you for your consideration of my requests.