Tennessee Reinstates Work Requirements for Able-Bodied Food Stamp Recipients

Mark Humphrey/AP
Mark Humphrey/AP

Tennessee is reinstating work requirements for able-bodied food stamp recipients ten years after the state did away with them due to the economic downturn, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday.

WBIR reports that beginning February 1, 2018, all able-bodied adults without children or other dependents will be required to spend 20 hours a week working, participating in an approved volunteer program, or receiving education or training to receive benefits.

Haslam said the waiver of the work requirements in 2008 was “necessary at a time when people were hurting from the recession,” but added that it is hard to “justify” in a growing economy.

“But nearly a decade later, Tennessee is one of the top locations in the Southeast for high-quality jobs, and it’s now difficult to justify waiving the work requirement for adults without dependents who are able to work,” Haslam said.

The requirements are expected to affect 58,000 Tennessee residents out of the 1 million that are currently receiving food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The new requirements will not go into effect statewide, however. The waiver will still be available in 16 “economically distressed” counties. It is not clear whether the new work requirements will eventually be “phased in” over time in those counties.

Food stamp usage has gone down every single month of Donald Trump’s presidency, and even in the few months preceding his election, because states have reinstated work requirements to receive benefits that were originally introduced during the Clinton administration in 1996.

Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina are a few of the states that have “phased in” the new work requirements by county, and all have experienced significant decreases in SNAP enrollment.


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