POLITICS

Scott Walker's Food Stamp Cuts Are Coming To A State Near You

Walker loves the cut, but it's federal policy.
Scott Walker is all about welfare reformin'. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Scott Walker is all about welfare reformin'. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

WASHINGTON -- Nearly 15,000 people have been kicked off food stamps in Wisconsin after Republican Gov. Scott Walker's administration implemented new limits on benefits for the unemployed. 

"This is part of our continued focus on moving people from government dependence to true independence and ensuring they are workforce ready," Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick told HuffPost, stressing that people can keep benefits if they participate in a state work training program

Although Walker has enacted the cut with gusto, the policy isn't unique to Wisconsin -- it's federal law, and it could result in a million fewer Americans receiving food stamps next year. Nationally, about 45 million Americans receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. 

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the vast majority of states were allowed to waive a three-month time limit on food stamp benefits for unemployed adults without disabilities or dependents. States will now be losing that waiver authority, thanks to falling unemployment rates. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the program, told states earlier this year that few would be eligible for waivers in 2016, though some could apply for waivers in small areas that still have high unemployment. SNAP recipients who work or participate in state-approved training programs at least 20 hours per week can keep their benefits.

Thanks to a provision of Walker's 2013 budget, Wisconsin dropped its waiver ahead of schedule, and other states have done the same thing.

Indiana discontinued SNAP benefits for 18,000 Hoosiers in November, and another 5,000 will get the boot this month, a spokesman for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration told The Huffington Post. More than 9,000 Maine residents had lost benefits as of March. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) announced plans to drop statewide waivers earlier this year. 

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal D.C. think tank, has said that states fail to make enough training slots available to unemployed SNAP recipients living in areas with few work opportunities that would allow them to meet the new requirements. 

Enrollment in Wisconsin's training program spiked when the requirement took effect in April, state data show, with roughly 2,000 adults signing up each month out of more than 7,000 monthly referrals. The state says a total of about 4,500 former SNAP recipients have gotten jobs since the time limit kicked in.

HuffPost readers: Are you an able-bodied adult getting cut off SNAP? Tell us about it -- email arthur@huffingtonpost.com. Please include your phone number if you're willing to be interviewed.

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