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Debt ceiling talks: What work requirements are GOP pushing for SNAP and Medicaid?

House Republicans passed a spending bill which they want enacted to secure their vote to raise the debt ceiling. Within are work requirements for benefits.

GOP push for work requirements for SNAP and Medicaid

Yet again, the US is facing a potential default on the nation’s debt as Republicans use a necessary debt ceiling increase as leverage to push through their legislative agenda. This time round, House GOP lawmakers want to extract spending cuts and extend Trump-era tax cuts for the wealthy included in a bill passed along party lines.

As part of the proposed cuts, expanded work requirements would be placed on recipients of SNAP and TANF along with new ones for Medicaid. The new requirements would bring the most savings from Medicaid but at the cost of 1.5 million beneficiaries losing federal coverage. President Biden has said he would draw a line at any changes that would impact “the medical health needs of people.”

As for the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formally known as food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the savings would be small to miniscule compared to the nearly $1.5 trillion proposal from the GOP. However, hundreds of thousands could lose food assistance from the measures that have been shown do not increase work force participation among recipients.

What work requirements are GOP pushing for Medicaid?

The federal Medicaid program has not had a work requirement until now. The GOP proposal would make it necessary for able-bodied adult recipients between the ages of 19 to 55 without dependents to work or participate in work-related activities for at least 80 hours a month. It would save the federal government $109 billion over the next decade according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Of the 1.5 million who the CBO estimates could lose federal coverage, 60 percent would remain on state Medicaid programs but the other 40 percent, or 600,000, would be uninsured.

Only one state has experimented with work requirements to receive Medicaid. The experience in Arkansas was 18,000 losing healthcare coverage and no increase in employment the CBO found. The experiment was ended after one year by a court ruling.

What work requirements are GOP pushing for SNAP and TANF?

Currently, both SNAP and TANF have work requirements of at least 80 hours per month. However, states have flexibility when setting the rules, but the GOP bill would remove a number of exemptions that states can grant.

The requirements to work or attend training programs at present apply to SNAP able-bodied recipients between ages 18 and 49 who do not live with dependents. The Republicans want to raise the age to those 55 and under.

It would save the federal government around $11 billion over the next decade according to the CBO. However, the CBO estimates that on average around 275,000 people would lose benefits each month while another 19,000 would receive smaller monthly benefits due to new income earned from working under the requirement.

The changes to TANF “would reduce state grants slightly” and save the government around $6 million. A CBO study on work requirements found that “substantially increased the employment rate of the targeted recipients” of TANF in the first year, but it decreased over time. However, TANF recipients receive strong work supports through the agency providing the benefits, unlike SNAP and Medicaid recipients.


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