The West Virginia Senate passed legislation Friday that would require food stamp recipients in the state to work at least 20 hours a week to receive benefits.
The state Senate voted 27-6 to require West Virginia residents, ages 18-49 who are not disabled, pregnant, or military veterans and do not have dependent children, to work a minimum of 20 hours per week to receive food stamp benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The bill already passed the West Virginia House in a 78-19 vote.
Forty-six of the 55 counties in West Virginia had waivers that would exempt them from having to comply with federal guidelines mandating that able-bodied adults without dependent children have to work or volunteer to receive benefits.
Federal law mandates that the work requirements be implemented nationwide, but it allows states to obtain waivers for individual counties if their 12-month average unemployment rate goes above 10 percent, or if the 24-month average unemployment rate is 20 percent more than the national average.
The federal guidelines requiring benefit recipients to work to receive those benefits were originally introduced during former President Bill Clinton’s administration in 1996.
States have tried implementing work requirements for benefit recipients for years, but efforts in many state legislatures stalled because of the 2009 economic stimulus put in place by the Obama administration to respond to the 2008 recession.
Once the economy recovered from the recession and those waivers expired, states such as Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina “phased in” the work requirements by county, and all have experienced significant decreases in SNAP enrollment.