Trump is bypassing Congress to enact stricter work requirements for food stamps

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue
(Image credit: Getty Images)

On Thursday, the Trump administration unveiled proposed new rules that would make it harder for people without jobs to get food stamps. The proposal was announced by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and it would bypass Congress, which just passed a farm bill that did not include a House Republican measure to attach new work requirements for food stamp recipients. It would affect about 755,000 people, The Washington Post reports.

The number of able-bodied people with no dependents who use food assistance in some states "is unacceptable to most Americans and belies common sense, particularly when employment opportunities are as plentiful as they currently are," Perdue said on a press call. "This restores the dignity of work to a sizeable segment of our population," and could save the federal government billions of dollars. The public has 60 days to comment on the proposal.

Currently, most adult with dependents or disabilities have to work or be in job training if they get food stamps for more than three months over three years, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture can waive those requirements for states with unemployment rates 20 percent above the average. The new rule says states must have an unemployment rate above 7 percent. Since the work requirement was enacted in 1996, every state but Delaware has requested a waiver at some point.

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Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, suggested that the farm bill would not have passed "had we not allowed the administration to handle [food stamps] in the way they feel is the best way to handle it." But the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) questioned whether Trump can ramp up work requirements unilaterally. "Congress writes laws, and the administration is required to write rules based on the law," she said. "I do not support unilateral and unjustified changes that would take food away from families."

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