House Republicans are proposing to double their food stamp savings to nearly $40 billion by rolling back waivers for able-bodied adults and targeting funds to states that are willing to impose greater work requirements on the parents of young children.
The prime mover is Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) who helped jettison the nutrition title from the House farm bill last month and is now trying to write his own version before the House goes to conference with the Senate.
Cantor has used a select working group of conservatives to help shape the package but shows signs now of reaching out to party moderates as well. And his goal is to have legislation in hand which the House can vote on in early September when it returns from the August recess.
The prime target appears to be able-bodied beneficiaries under 50 years old and without dependents ó a population that has grown significantly since 2008 because of the bad economy and increased state waivers of a 20-hour-a-week work requirement.
By rolling back these waivers, large savings are possible, essentially by forcing millions off the rolls if they donít find work after three months. Unless approached with some care, the impact could be severe in areas of chronically high-unemployment, such as the Rio Grande Valley, poor urban areas and Indian reservations, for example. And the final details of the bill have not been made public.
A second area of more modest but still controversial savings would come from using federal funds to pressure states to take a more aggressive welfare reform-like approach imposing work requirements on able-bodied parents with young children.
Currently Washington provides a 50 percent match for states that spend their own funds for employment and training programs for food stamp recipients. As proposed now, the bill would only provide this aid if the state is willing to operate welfare reform-like work activities for mothers with children over 1- years-old.
This is a significant expansion of the current food stamps work rules, which exempt mothers with children under 6.
The current federal match for such employment and training aid is expected to run near $230 million in 2014. New York and California would be most impacted by the provision since they are much more invested in such programs and receive the lionís share of the federal match.