Georgia Pilots Welfare Work Requirement

This week’s Courier Herald column:

Starting at the beginning of this month, food stamp recipients in three Georgia counties who are “able bodied” and without dependents had to show that they either had a job or were in a job training program in order to continue to receive their taxpayer funded benefit. Volunteering at a non-profit for 20 hours per week would also meet the work criteria.

That shouldn’t seem like such a difficult burden. We are first talking about people physically able to work. We’re talking about people that don’t have the responsibility of caring for their children. Also excluded are those who are pregnant, and those currently receiving unemployment benefits.

Thus, we’re only talking about people who are able to work, aren’t working, have no children to care for, and don’t wish to be trained at the State’s expense for work. Currently, the state of Georgia will pay for tuition in several high demand career fields. These range from truck driving and welding to health sciences and practical nursing.

The pilot program is currently for residents of Cobb, Gwinnet and Hall counties with an eye toward a statewide rollout. The unemployment rates is very low in each of these counties, at 4.8% for Cobb, 4.9% for Gwinnett and 4.6% in Hall. Thus, those that want a job should be able to find one. Those who need to be trained have the state begging to train them and employers that need them.

There are almost three times the number of people receiving benefits under the SNAP program than there were just fifteen years ago. More than double the number of able bodied single adults have joined the program since 2008. Yet we’re no longer at the lows of the great recession, and we have jobs that are going unfilled. States are stepping in to restrict the flow of welfare dollars to those that truly need it.

The state of Maine has already rolled out a similar program statewide. According to the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector, Maine saw an 80% drop in the number of those who fit into this category drawing food stamp benefits in the first 90 days of implementation. These results show that this requirement may be a good way to ensure that those who need the benefits continue to receive them, but those who would prefer to be taken care of by taxpayers rather than to work and become a taxpayer themselves will not.

This seems pretty simple, but nothing is ever simple in politics. On the eve of the program’s implementation here in Georgia, one of my progressive friends took to twitter to say “nothing like kicking someone when they’re down”, adding that Georgia is going in the “wrong direction”. Sigh.

There’s nothing wrong with telling someone who is able to work and has an employer willing to hire them that the taxpayers must continue to support them because work is too much trouble or just inconvenient. This isn’t taking food out of a hungry child’s mouth. This is telling an adult (again, only those adults that are physically able and have no dependents) that if they’re able to work, they will find a job or become prepared to get a job.
There are many hard working Georgians – many with dependents of their own – who work long hours, endure relatively low pay, and have the hardship of paying for transportation to and from work in order to pay taxes. Why should a single mom working two jobs to raise her kids have the taxes she pays go to pay for the food of an able bodied man to sit around “find himself” until a gig he feels suits him comes along?

Republicans would do well to start fighting battles on these terms. The populists within the GOP’s ranks are currently fighting what they perceive to be “the elites” in their own party. The GOP needs to find more ways like this to show that they are on the side of working Americans – and to demonstrate that the progressive left is moving to a world where no one should be denied government benefits, even if they are able bodied.

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blakeage80
blakeage80

Any idea how long the pilot will last? projected implementation? Is it limited to just SNAP?

Bart
Bart

Having never seen the application form for SNAP, is there a question, “Are you an able bodied person with the ability to work, but not the desire”? How is this determined? And if it is a known statewide problem, why limit to only 3 of 159 counties? Kick them all out and/or arrest them for fraud.

Based on the criteria used to determine who will be forced to act responsibly, one can assume we will experience a rise in pregnancies and doctor’s notices of physical disabilities in order to avoid getting kicked out of the program. Bet on it.

gcp
gcp

We talked about this issue on a recent Morning Reads and yes it does need to go state-wide. Unfortunately, states have little control over most of the food stamp program. State efforts to restrict the type food purchased with stamps is disallowed by USDA. Any significant changes such as a two year lifetime limit on participants would require congressional action. Also interesting to note both Isakson and Chambliss voted for the last AG bill which made no significant changes to the program.

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

Gcp,

AG Bill: this is my favorite site on Georgia farm subsidies and playing with it will answer your concerns, 70% of GA farmers receive no subsidies, but the big agri-industry lobbyists work wonders.
And keep in mind these have been some great years to farm.

To oppose will get “you hate small farmers and starving old ladies”.

https://farm.ewg.org/region.php?fips=13000

gcp
gcp

Farm subsidies are only 16% of total 2017 USDA outlays of 151 billion, so yes that’s a relatively small problem. Forestry gets about 7% and “other” gets about 6%.

The big problem of course is “Nutrition Assistance” (SNAP and smaller WIC and school lunch programs) which will likely take 71% of 2017 USDA budget.

http://www.obpa.usda.gov/budsum/fy17budsum.pdf

Davo65
Davo65

Pretty safe to say that conservatives will never be happy with this issue until they can mandate that food stamp recipients have to physically beg for a basic human need. This is the only way they would be able to show everyone their moral superiority to those ‘takers’ out there who, for one reason or another, just don’t have it together.

xdog
xdog

Wouldn’t very low unemployment rates make it less likely jobs are waiting to be filled?

blakeage80
blakeage80

I think 4.5 – 5% is about as low as you get and assuming those numbers are recent, it means there is an upward trajectory of job creation. This does bring some folks back into the labor pool in those counties. I wonder if there won’t be a brief uptick in that unemployment metric.

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

Shortage of jobs is some urban myth. There is a growing number of folks statistically out, enjoying the underground economy and jobs people don’t want as they have better options.

Ask any of the new immigrants.

abella30
abella30

I think the most difficult burden for able-bodied adults would be transportation and/or caring for other adult family members. I know several people on SNAP and most of them lack transit options, don’t have a car or have their drivers license suspended. A few others are able-bodied but care for disabled parents. Most of the people I encounter would prefer to work but can’t afford to live in areas with reasonable transit and can’t drive themselves around. I see this issue as part of the overall poverty cycle that impoverished people often become sucked into and, once they are there,… Read more »

LTWill
LTWill

I agree 100%. Reform is fine as long as the new “requirements” don’t place untenable restrictions on people of need. A lot of our tax money is “wasted.” I just hate seeing good people get hurt in the process of saving money. Especially when we are giving free money to billionaires.

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

If we got rid of most of the transit buses we could give the few truly in need you talk about a limited pre-paid Uber card and have a lot of money left for infrastructure improvements.

I say that as I just spent a week on metro trains and Uber.
Uber was so efficient and cheap, I’m still stunned.

gcp
gcp

If transportation is such a problem for food stampers how do they get to the store to get their food? I see them in the stores frequently and the ones I see drive just like those that don’t use stamps.

FreeDuck
FreeDuck

I’m hoping retirees do not count as “able-bodied”. There are a large number of retirees who live on social security who qualify for SNAP benefits, which could explain the increase over the last several years.

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

“Job training” “job” definitions ? In a conversation this week with a GED instructor she remarked that too high of a percentage of those enrolled are scamming the system that requires enrollment to collect certain benefits. They drop out at the end of the program and then reenroll. Experts say credit cards increase individual spending 18% per a study. A SNAP card also increases obesity in many. Give the truly needy food or feed them somewhere like schools or fire stations or meals on wheels. Government benefits or selective fraud prevention in programs to individuals and corporations far exceed the… Read more »

CoastalCat
CoastalCat

Is there a drug to combat pure lowdown hatefulness? How about bad spelling errors? Some people need both.

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

Feed the needy, not the greedy

xdog
xdog

Who has said otherwise?