Food assistance advocates contend that a Georgia agency’s refusal to apply for a federal work exemption puts thousands of Georgians in danger of losing much-needed monthly payments for groceries.
The “able-bodied adults without dependents” program requires participants to work a minimum of 20 hours per week, enroll in job training or perform state-approved volunteering. Participants who fail to meet these standards for three consecutive months will be cut off from receiving any more food stamps for another three years.
Supporters of the work requirement see it as an incentive for adults to put in some sweat equity in order to earn the benefits that help put food on the family table. However, Ife Finch Floyd, director of economic justice at Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, says the state’s family and children’s services are reversing a longstanding policy while ignoring research that minimizes the motivational effects of mandatory work hours.
Floyd says that since the Great Recession, officially counted as late 2007 until June 2009, Georgia sought waivers from the federal government that suspended work rules for areas where jobs were hard to find. Georgians working jobs with inconsistent schedules who average 70 hours a month would be disqualified from the federal program after three months.