Monday, August 24, 2015

The Pros and Cons...of Tennessee's New SNAP Work and/or Education Requirements

Starting January 1, 2016, a new program will become effective in Tennessee that requires Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) between the ages of 18 and 49 to work or participate in a qualified training program for at least an average of 20 hours per week (80 hours per month), or be eligible for only three (3) months of SNAP benefits in a three year period...

Work and/or education requirements for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance) or food stamps previously is, of course, an excellent idea because it requires self-improvement for recipients, but the new law raises concern for recipients experiencing employment barriers. The concern is the possibility that SNAP could be abused should recipients be indefinitely required to "volunteer" for benefits if they are unable to independently acquire employment. What has occurred with other programs like TANF that require participants to volunteer for benefits is that participants, in some instances, have been exploited for free labor, as in actually discouraged from seeking or sustaining paid employment, for the purpose of providing free or underpaid labor, which is not only unconstitutional, it is a form of racketeering, and should certainly be addressed...

The notion of volunteering for public benefits within and of itself would not be unreasonable if relevant agencies invested an equal amount of time into assisting clients with addressing employment barriers and/or providing better guidance with employment searches.

Though the new law apparently does not affect recipients with children, this particular sect should also be privileged to interventions that would address employment barriers.SNAP recipients should not be required to participate in TANF or to perform free labor or receive compensation for any labor that is less than minimum wage or not proportional to benefits they are receiving to be privileged to these programs...

SNAP [and TANF] participation requirements should be fair and ethical, and designed to assist clients in reaching their personal improvement goals, not to further perpetuate a cycle of poverty and government dependence.




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