Due to the expiration of a federal waiver, food stamp recipients in Arkansas who are childless and able-bodied must be employed, in school, or participating in job training or a volunteer program — or else their right to receive food stamps will expire after three months.
To put it another way: If the recipients don’t meet these requirements, they’ll be kicked off the food stamp program.
From Arkansas Online:
At the end of March, the state estimates that roughly 12,000 unemployed Arkansans will lose their food-stamp benefits because of the imposition of work requirements on adults in the program.
On Jan. 1, the state began enforcing requirements that limit food-assistance benefits to three months for able-bodied, childless adults ages 18-49, if they are not employed, in school, or participating in a job-training or volunteer program. The state is now sending out 12,000 notices to the first round of people who are expected to lose food-stamp benefits April 1.
The three-month limit previously had been waived in Arkansas and several other states as the country struggled through a recession, and unemployment skyrocketed. Now, the federal government is reimposing the requirements.
Arkansas is one of 23 states where the limits are in place for the first time since the recession, according to a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
To see how these types of work requirements are good for Arkansas taxpayers and low-income workers, one need look no further than welfare reforms implemented in Kansas, according to a recent study by the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA).
These reforms immediately freed nearly 13,000 Kansans from welfare on December 31, 2013. Nearly 60 percent of those leaving food stamps found employment within 12 months and their incomes rose by an average of 127 percent per year. That higher income more than offset the food stamps they lost, increasing economic activity and bringing in new resources for other state priorities. Better still, the average income among working able-bodied adults is now above the poverty line.
Those still receiving food stamps, but now subject to a work requirement, are also better off. The typical enrollee has significantly increased their employment and incomes, although their incomes are not as high as those freed completely from welfare.
Long-term welfare caused severe damage. The data shows that the less time these able-bodied adults spend on welfare, the quicker they can get back into the workforce once they are freed from welfare and the more money they will make. These Kansans are discovering new lives of independence and self-sufficiency that, in some cases, they haven’t known for more than two decades.
In a nutshell, many of the food stamp recipients affected by these reforms were able to find jobs that provided them with more income, pushing them out of poverty. Even those recipients who stayed on food stamps because they were below the federal poverty level were able to increase their incomes and employment opportunities.
I expect we’ll see similar results from Arkansas’s new food stamp work requirement in the coming years.