U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today outlined her support for a proposed rule change that would encourage able-bodied individuals to find gainful work and reduce their dependence on federal assistance.

Hyde-Smith, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, recently issued a formal comment on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Able-bodied Adults without Dependents rule change.  In attempting to promote greater self-sufficiency in high employment areas, the rule would update Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) requirements for states to qualify for work requirement waivers for able-bodied adults without dependents.

“While there is still more work to be done, the proposed rule is an important step in the right direction to encourage able-bodied adults to move from government dependence to the workplace,” Hyde-Smith said in her comments for the Federal Register.

“Our public assistance system, including SNAP, is intended to be a safety net for those in need and these proposed changes will help protect those resources for our citizens who truly need assistance.  We must continue to work toward returning SNAP to its original intent by moving able-bodied adults back to the workforce,” she said.

The proposed rule would allow USDA to follow congressional intent in the 1996 welfare reform law.  For able-bodied adults without dependents, SNAP benefits were intended to be temporary unless beneficiaries met certain work requirements.  Congress also granted the USDA authority to grant work requirement waivers in areas where the unemployment rate is above 10 percent or where there is a critical lack of sufficient jobs.

Over the years, however, many states have abused the waiver system to maintain consistent statewide work-requirement waivers despite low unemployment and a strong economy.  Hyde-Smith pointed out that nearly 2.6 million able-bodied adults are exempt from the work requirement in 33 states and the District of Columbia.  Mississippi does not have a waiver.

“In states that have restored work requirements, able-bodied individuals have found employment across a number of industries and have enjoyed significant income growth.  Their salaries often more than make up for SNAP benefits, in turn equating to a better quality of life for them and their families,” Hyde-Smith said.

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service, which administers USDA food assistance programs, will now review all public comments on the proposed rule before a final determination is made on it.

Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith Press Release