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08Jan

USDA Crackdown on Food Stamp Work Requirements Could Impact Thousands in PA

New Castle News

A proposal by the Trump Administration would force states, including Pennsylvania, to stop granting waivers from work requirements for able-bodied adults, could impact close to 100,000 Pennsylvanians.

Supporters say proposal is a logical response to improved economic conditions. Detractors say it’s an unnecessary attack on the poor.

In 2016, the federal government tightened the job requirements for able-bodied adults receiving food stamp benefits. But the federal rules allowed states to get waivers to allow jobless able-bodied adults to continue collecting the benefits if they lived in areas where it might be difficult to find work.

While the economy has improved, the state has continued to grant waivers to people in almost every county, including: Cambria, Crawford, Lawrence, Mercer, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, Somerset, Union, Venango and Warren counties.

That all could change. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in late December that it plans to tighten the requirements so states can grant fewer waivers.

Under the proposed rule, people would only be exempt from the work requirements if they live in areas with unemployment rates above 7 percent.

In October, no county in Pennsylvania had an unemployment rate above 7 percent. Only one, Forest County at 6.4 percent, exceeded 6 percent unemployment. Nineteen counties had unemployment between 5 and 6 percent though: Cambria, Carbon, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Fayette, Greene, Huntingdon, Indiana, Lawrence, Luzerne, Monroe, Northumberland, Philadelphia, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Somerset and Tioga.

In announcing the rule, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue called the change a “common-sense policy, particularly at a time when the unemployment rate is at a generational low.”

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