New USDA SNAP Rules and Work Requirements Come at the Perfect Time for Job Seekers | Citizens Against Government Waste

New USDA SNAP Rules and Work Requirements Come at the Perfect Time for Job Seekers

The WasteWatcher

The December 2019 jobs report, released on January 10, 2020 confirms what everyone already knows; the economy is strong and the jobs market is robust. 

The U.S. added 145,000 new jobs in December, the unemployment rate persisted at a fifty-year low of 3.5 percent, and average earnings rose slightly, with the year over year gain at 2.9 percent.

While wage acceleration has been a bit slower than economists had hoped for, according to Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, “It’s easier to get a job than a raise in this economy…”

Which is exactly why USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue’s recently announced changes to the $58 billion Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP) work rules couldn’t come at a more propitious time.  Jobs are plentiful and demand for workers is strong.  And right now, this is especially true for entry level positions.

In fact, the New York Times states “The labor squeeze has helped workers at the lowest end of the pay scale, pushing wage increases above the overall average.”   

In fact, there are more jobs available than workers to fill them.  According to the National Federation of Independent Business’s (NFIB) December 2019 Jobs Report:

“Finding qualified workers remained the top issue for owners in December, with 23 percent reporting it as their number one problem. Fifty-three percent reported hiring or trying to hire, but 94 percent of those owners reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill.

Sixty-two percent of construction firms reported few or no qualified applicants and 46 percent cited the shortage of qualified labor as their top business problem. The manufacturing sector reported comparable figures with 63 percent and 24 percent respectively.

Down from last month, 33 percent (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period. Sixty-one percent had job openings in construction.

The inability to assemble work teams is a key contributor to the comparably lackluster performance of the construction industry as evidenced by the December figures,” said NFIB’s Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. ‘Owners are raising compensation in order to attract more qualified applicants to fill open positions.’”

SNAP enrollment numbers began to rise during the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009.  Enrollment doubled between 2007 and 2011, peaking in 2013 at 47 million households and $80 billion.  Yet, even as the economy recovered, SNAP enrollment has remained stubbornly high.

Today, though SNAP participation has declined somewhat, there are still 34 million households on the program, at a cost to taxpayers of $58 billion annually.  These numbers are nowhere near the levels they were prior to the Recession; in 2007, SNAP participation was around 26 million households at a cost of about $33 billion. 

The loosening of SNAP eligibility rules and work requirements enacted under previous administrations, coupled with weak income and asset verification and the states’ inability to quantify improper payments in the program have all contributed to keeping SNAP enrollment high.   

The USDA’s new rules, announced on December 5, 2019, will restore some measure of accountability to the program, allow states more flexibility to determine eligibility and verify assets, crack down on improper payments and fraud, and most importantly, move able-bodied adults with no dependents into a flourishing workforce more quickly. 

There is no time like the present to ensure that the nation’s safety net programs support those truly in need and encourage those who can work to take advantage of the thriving economy.        
 

  

 

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The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste