Saturday, April 9, 2022

Tennessee looks to reinstate SNAP benefit work requirement

 By Jon Styf | The Center Square, Apr 8, 2022 - A Tennessee bill to reinstate a 20-hour-a-week work requirement for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is headed to the Senate.

Senate Bill 2071 would require able-bodied individuals between age 18 and 49 and without children to work, train or volunteer for 20 hours each week to receive benefits. The bill would be effective once it is signed into law. Work-requirement laws were waived during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to sponsoring Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin.

The bill also would require the Department of Human Services (DHS) to have a valid reason for granting any work-requirement waivers.

“We know we have a tremendous workforce shortage in the state and in the nation,” Johnson said. “We need people who can, and are able, to get back to work. We don’t need to be providing incentives for people not to work.”

The fiscal note on the bill shows that it would cost Tennessee $227 million each year with $406 million in federal expenses. The costs are associated with running the SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) program, which currently has 2,984 participants and would add nearly 158,000 new participants.

Federal funds pay for the E&T services, and the state and federal governments evenly split administrative costs and supportive services.

“What we are trying to do with this legislation … is to kind of reset the playing field and reset those work requirements, which are very, very important,” Johnson said.

The House companion bill, House Bill 2096, will be in front of the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday.

Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, asked Johnson how he reconciled this bill with a stipulation in the proposed new public school funding formula that students who qualify for need-based benefits receive $1,700 per student in benefits. In the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA), students determined to be economically advantaged would receive 25% more in additional funding each year; more than $1,700 with a $6,860 base to start.

“There is going to be a real significant incentive to make sure that everybody who is potentially eligible signs up,” Yarbro said.

Johnson disagreed there would be an increase in economically advantaged students under TISA.

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