Thousands of people have dropped off the food stamp rolls in Georgia as a result of the state implementing work requirements for food stamp recipients.
More than half of the 11,779 people enrolled for food stamps in 21 counties, an estimated 7,251 people, have dropped out of the food stamp program—a drop of 62 percent, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Georgia first rolled out its work requirements for the food stamp program in three counties in January 2016. Since then, the state has expanded work requirements in an additional 21 counties, giving people in those 21 counties until April 1, 2017 to find a job or lose food stamp benefits.
Those who receive benefits must work at least 20 hours a week, be enrolled in state-approved job training, or volunteer for a state-approved non-profit or charity.
State officials say the plan is to extend the work requirements to all 159 counties in Georgia by 2019 and implement work requirements in 60 more counties, starting in 2018.
“The greater good is people being employed, being productive and contributing to the state,” said Bobby Cagle, director of Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services.
Views on the work mandate are mixed in the state, with some seeing the requirement as a way to get more people into the workforce and less dependent on government handouts, while others say it is an unfair measure that targets the disabled who cannot hold down a job due to their impairments.
Brandon Hanick, who represents the progressive advocacy group Better Georgia, says people with mental health problems, limited education, and the physically disabled would have trouble trying to provide proof of their inability to meet the work requirements.
“It’s cruel,” Hanick said. “We’re talking about one of the most basic needs — the need for food.”
State Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia), on the other hand, says that the decrease in food stamp recipients means that the work requirements are helping people become less dependent on government handouts.
“This is about protecting taxpayer dollars from abuse, and taking people off the cycle of dependency,” Morris said. The big drop in numbers, he added, “shows how tax dollars are abused when it comes to entitlements.”
Over the past year, the number of able-bodied food stamp recipients without children in Georgia decreased from 111,000 to 89,500, a 19 percent decrease, the AJC reported.
According to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics for FY 2017, 42,906,253 Americans are enrolled in the food stamp program—a 2.9 percent decrease from FY 2016, when 44,219,363 Americans received food stamps.