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Farm bill's food stamp work requirements could have time limit under new amendment

Tony Pugh and William Douglas, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- In a nod to conservatives who want stricter proposed work requirements for the food stamp program, the House Agriculture Committee chairman said Wednesday that he's working to put time limits on how long food stamp recipients can participate in job training activities required for the assistance.

The amendment would close a potential loophole in the House farm bill that could allow participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, to "hop between training assignments," rather than pursue employment, said Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas.

The proposed amendment could be offered as early as Thursday as House Republicans aim for a vote on the legislation by the end of the week.

"Ultimately, you need to go to work," said Conaway, who sponsored the legislation. "Right now, we don't have a trigger there and we're trying to figure out a way to say, 'All right, you get a certain amount of (time) to get job training. And then you've got to go to work.'"

The SNAP program currently requires healthy adults without dependents between 18 and 49 years old to either work 20 hours per week or participate in 20 hours a week of education and training in order to receive benefits.

The House bill would expand those requirements to able-bodied SNAP participants up to age 59. Those who don't comply would lose benefits for one year after the first violation and for three years after future violations.

To regain program eligibility under the bill, recipients must either meet the work requirement for a full month or receive an exemption or waiver from the work requirement.

But the legislation currently doesn't put a limit on how long a person could remain in training activity and still continue to receive assistance.

"On balance, we've got the right policy in place," Conaway said.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said the farm bill's SNAP work requirement is "not a huge issue for most of the caucus," which is focusing most of its energy on immigration.

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