Monday, November 10, 2014

Americans Support Limits on Food Stamps

Americans Support Limits on Food Stamps:

A recent Rasmussen Report found that 65 percent of U.S. voters approve of time limits on food stamps. Only 24 percent disapprove and 12 percent remain undecided.

On a similar note, the majority of Americans also support work requirements for able-bodied adults receiving welfare assistance, such as food stamps. For example, a 2012 Rasmussen report found that 83 percent of Americans support work requirements for welfare recipients. A 2009 survey by Heritage indicated that over 90 percent of Americans on both sides of the political aisle agree that “able-bodied adults that receive cash, food, housing and medical assistance should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving those government benefits.”

Both the support for time limits and work requirements indicate that Americans believe welfare assistance should serve as a safety net rather than a way of life.

And the best way to reform welfare to encourage self-sufficiency is through a work requirement. In 1996, Congress passed welfare reform, which inserted work requirements (and a time limit) into the largest cash-welfare assistance program. After the reform, welfare rolls dropped by half, employment rates increased, and child poverty declined. It was the work requirement that was at the heart of this reform. (The time limit served mostly a symbolic purpose and really didn’t have an effect because of loopholes it included.)

Unfortunately, only a few of the federal government’s 80 means-tested welfare programs have a work requirement.

The food stamp program is one of the largest of the 80 means-tested welfare programs and is a good place to start promoting work. It includes a very small work provision for able-bodied adults without children (or other dependents). But most states currently receive a federal waiver for even that modest work requirement. Food stamps needs to be reformed to include a substantial work requirement, based on the model of the 1996 welfare reform. As Heritage’s Robert Rector says: “Those in need of aid should receive assistance; in return, they should take steps toward supporting themselves.”

Rector and Heritage Foundation visiting fellow Katherine Bradley explain: “A work activation program would seek to increase employment among able-bodied, nonworking food stamp households that do not work and to increase the hours of work among those who are employed part-time.”

Most Americans believe there should be a safety net, but they also believe that people should do what they can to help themselves. Policies that promote personal responsibility, specifically a strong work requirement, will help individuals toward a path of greater self-sufficiency.

Alexandra Gourdikian is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.

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