Tying food stamps to work seems fair, but ensure poor have access to workforce first

The U.S. House of Representatives’ leadership bet the farm on H.R. 2 last week.

Fortunately, it ended up with a lot of egg, tomatoes and slop on its face for its efforts. The House rejected the farm bill on a 213-198 vote Friday..

The 30 Republicans who joined all Democrats voting no were members of factions who used the unrelated issue of immigration to derail the vote. All three of our state’s House members voted for this legislation.

Though the House leadership has now promised a vote on immigration, the 600-page farm bill won’t return to the House floor until late June.

Obviously, this bill funds hundreds of agriculture and nutrition programs, many vital and in everyone’s best interests. Others are directed at Big Ag, which is a big problem, and related subsidy programs, including reimbursements for crop insurance

However, invariably, as it last did in 2013’s farm bill , the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) failed to take seed.

H.R. 2 would impose a work requirement of 20 hours per week or the equivalent hours spent in job training for able-bodied adults without dependents.

Admittedly, the idea sounds only fair, if not for reality and the circumstances facing millions of struggling families.

We have consistently opposed such legislation because it simply doesn’t work, starting with a pilot program in nine state counties in 2016.

The pilot program reinstated a federal requirement that SNAP recipients must meet a work, volunteer or training requirement or lose benefits.

Those nine counties in West Virginia were selected based on having the lowest jobless rates.

Yet, according to a 2017 Department of Health and Human Resources report, the pilot was unsuccessful,.

Of the nearly 14,000 people referred to SNAP’s jobs and training program, only 259 found jobs — 2 percent — while more than 5,400 were denied benefits.

However, that didn’t stop the Legislature from extending this work requirement statewide this year.

If you’re thinking SNAP benefits are the ultimate freebie, they average out to $1.20 per meal.

Many recipients live in rural areas where jobs and transportation are lacking, or are homeless in urban areas.

Space does not allow us to tackle the demands this legislation is putting on food pantries and food banks.

Or the loss of millions in federal funding spent at large and small groceries.

True, the federal farm bill does correctly provide modest funding for job training.

But why not ensure we overcome what’s keeping people out of the workforce before cutting food assistance?

Then work requirements would be a lot easier to swallow.

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