Here’s what happened when Alabama restored food stamp work requirements

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

During the Obama administration, many states waived work requirements to receive food stamps and as a result, record numbers of people enrolled in the program. At one point, nearly 47 million Americans were receiving food stamps.

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Now some states are looking to reverse this trend of dependency. One of those states is Alabama, which reinstated work requirements for able-bodied food stamp recipients. So far, that requirement has forced thousands off the program.

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Thirteen previously exempted Alabama counties saw an 85 percent drop in food stamp participation after work requirements were put in place on Jan. 1, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources.

The counties – Greene, Hale, Perry, Dallas, Lowndes, Wilcox, Monroe, Conecuh, Clarke, Washington, Choctaw, Sumter and Barbour – had been exempt from a change that limited able-bodied adults without dependents to three months of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits within a three-year time frame unless they were working or participating in an approved training program.

[…]Ending the exemption has dramatically cut the number of SNAP recipients in the counties.

As of Jan. 1, 2017, there were 13,663 able-bodied adults without dependents receiving food stamps statewide. That number dropped to 7,483 by May 1, 2017. Among the 13 counties, there were 5,538 adults ages 18-50 without dependents receiving food stamps as of Jan. 1, 2017. That number dropped to 831 – a decline of about 85 percent – by May 1, 2017.

Statewide, Alabama has reduced food stamp rolls by 42,000 since work requirements were reinstated statewide in 2016.

Alabama officials expect more people to take themselves off of the program. This is a good: It means more people are able to support themselves without government benefits.

Alabama is not the only state that has reinstated work requirements. One of the first states to reinstate them after the Great Recession was Maine. In 2014, the Maine reinstated work requirements for all able-bodied adults between ages 18-50, and the state saw impressive results both with decreased enrollment and better quality of life for the enrollees.

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Between December 2014 and March 2015, Maine’s food stamp enrollment by able-bodied adults saw a decrease of 80 percent. By 2016, those enrollment numbers had dropped to just 1,500. Those who came off the program saw their incomes increase by 110 percent. Maine is now looking to adopt similar work requirements for Medicaid.

The Trump administration wants to reduce the number of Americans who are on food stamps by restoring the work requirements the Obama administration repealed.

One of the most degrading aspects of the welfare state is that it destroys self-reliance. It denies people the opportunity of sustaining themselves through the dignity of work. Alabama has proven that when forced to support themselves through their own, people will either not qualify for food stamps or will have no further need for it. Hopefully more states will follow Alabama’s lead.

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