First it was Medicaid, and now it’s food stamps, at least in West Virginia.
With no fanfare or public announcement, that state’s governor, Jim Justice, just signed a measure requiring able-bodied adults, 18-49 who are without dependents, to work, volunteer or participate in workforce training programs for 20 hours per week to receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The requirement kicks in Oct. 1.
Under guidance announced by the Trump administration, other states — notably Kentucky and Indiana — are likewise now requiring the able-bodied to work, volunteer or be trained for work to participate in the Medicaid program.
What the West Virginia legislation actually does is restrict and eventually rescind the state’s ability to issue waivers from the federal work requirement for SNAP, which are traditionally handled by the state Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). However, exceptions abound based on the unemployment rate in each county. Even with the exceptions, though, waivers will cease entirely on Oct. 1, 2022.
SNAP was created in 2008 as a replacement for what was originally the Food Stamp Program (FSP), as recounted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its “Short History of SNAP“:
The 2008 farm bill (H.R. 2419, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008) was enacted May 22, 2008 through an override of the President’s veto. The new law increased the commitment to Federal food assistance programs by more than $10 billion over the next 10 years. In efforts to fight stigma, the law changed the name of the Federal program to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP as of Oct. 1, 2008, and changed the name of the Food Stamp Act of 1977 to the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008.
Data from WV Foodlink, a project of the Food Justice Laboratory at West Virginia University, shows just under 330,000 West Virginians received SNAP benefits in 2017, including one in three children in the state. The population of the state is 1.8 million.