The Food and Nutrition Service of the United States Department of Agriculture is now soliciting public comment on a proposed rule to eliminate current state flexibility administering waivers for able-bodied adults without dependents and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program eligibility. The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute has a long history of monitoring, reporting and critiquing Georgia’s use of a three-month time limit and presented the following comments as part of the official public registry.
GBPI opposes this proposal because, as written, it will restrict state options to waive the three-month time limit for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) and lower the threshold for waiver approval to a 7 percent unemployment rate over 24 months. In other words, a county would now have to demonstrate economic hardship by showing that the unemployment rate is higher than 7 percent. This rate is to serve as an indicator of strain on the labor market in an area, alerting the USDA that it is difficult to find a job within three months or less.
More than one million Georgians rely on SNAP as a vital source of assistance that helps put food on the table. The program also provides a financial benefit to communities throughout the state, pumping $2.3 billion into the Georgia economy during the 2018 federal fiscal year. However, the proposed rule change threatens food assistance for hundreds of thousands of Georgians, many of whom already struggle financially while meeting work activity reporting requirements.
While recognizing that SNAP provides a significant boost to the state’s economy as well as to the health and well-being of low-income individuals and families, there are opportunities for improvements. The USDA must exercise caution against deepening existing economic hardship and food insecurity by weakening waivers that exempt ABAWDs from the three-month time limit. These Georgians already confront many barriers to work including lack of reliable transportation, criminal records, inadequate housing and limited education. Although many SNAP participants have multiple odd jobs to afford daily necessities, they still do not work enough hours to meet requirements.
Read our full comments on the proposal here. You can also register your comments or share a story on the record as a part of this public comment period.