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SNAP Changes Would Require “Massive Expansion of Bureaucracy”

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Critics charge the only way changes being proposed in Congress to SNAP would save the government money is by ending food assistance to eligible households. (American Heart Association)
Critics charge the only way changes being proposed in Congress to SNAP would save the government money is by ending food assistance to eligible households. (American Heart Association)
 By Dan HeymanContact
May 18, 2018

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) now under debate in Congress would mean an explosion of red tape and bureaucracy for states and the poor, according to a new report.

Rules added to SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, could include much tighter income and work requirements – and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report finds states totally unprepared to implement them.

Stacy Dean, CBPP vice president for food assistance policy, said caseworkers would go from checking work and income a few times a year, to every month. She noted how complicated that would be in the instance of a waitress.

"One week, her employer gives her 25 hours a week; the next, 18," Dean said. "So, she could end up losing SNAP under the House bill because she just can't get enough hours to meet the requirement, or misses one month of paperwork filing, explaining what's happening with her hours."

Supporters argue tightening the rules would push more people into jobs and save the government money. But critics say the rules could cost more to enforce, with the only savings coming from ending food assistance.

A Thursday House vote on the Farm Bill, which includes the SNAP revisions, was stalled by a fight over unrelated immigration issues.

In the House bill, every unemployed applicant would be referred to job training. The report estimates those state programs would jump from serving about a quarter-million people a month to more than three million.

As Seth DiStefano, policy outreach director for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy pointed out, state lawmakers are unlikely to budget enough for the Department of Health and Human Resources to meet the added demands.

"That is a massive expansion of bureaucracy," said DeStefano. "Our good folks at DHHR are beyond stretched to the max, and our State Legislature is not going to appropriate several million dollars to hire several thousand more caseworkers."

According to the report, 80 percent of able SNAP recipients already work, have worked or will go to work within a year under the current rules. By comparison, a West Virginia work-rules pilot project did not move people into jobs, but saw a significant increase in demand at food banks.

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