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  1. #1
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    California Used Loopholes To Keep Thousands on SNAP From Having to Work

    California Used Loopholes To Keep Thousands on SNAP From Having to Work
    Able-bodied adults received work waiver even with record-low unemployment

    Getty Images

    BY: Charles Fain Lehman
    August 21, 2018 12:50 pm

    Despite 10-year-low unemployment, California took advantage of loopholes in federal regulation to keep more than 800,000 federal welfare recipients from having to work.

    This conclusion is based on the response of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to an application to waive SNAP's work requirements for 55 of California's 58 counties, issued to the state in July and recently obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

    California's waiver, which will last until August of 2019, exempts more than 800,000 able-bodied, childless Californians from having to work while on SNAP. This in spite of the fact that California's unemployment rate—4.2 percent—is at its lowest level in at least 10 years.

    About 42 million people nationwide receive federal welfare benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Some SNAP recipients—able-bodied adults without dependents, commonly called "ABAWDs"—are required under law to work at least 20 hours a week, or spend equivalent time in education and training programs, in order to continue receiving SNAP benefits. If an ABAWD fails to meet these requirements for three months, they lose their benefits.

    States can receive waivers, however, exempting ABAWDs from work requirements if the state faces certain conditions. ABAWDs can be exempted in a given county for either of two reasons: (1) if the unemployment rate in that county is higher than 10 percent or (2) if the average unemployment rate in the county over a given two-year period is 20 percent higher than the national unemployment rate in the same two-year period.

    In principle, states should receive waivers in times of economic hardship, when jobs are hard to find. But California, one of 33 states to have a partial or total waiver, has extended its waiver in spite of its low unemployment rate.

    This produces some strange situations in the Californian counties where SNAP work requirements are waived for the next year. Unemployment rates in some of the work-free counties are shockingly low—as low as 2.7 percent in Marin County. Indeed, some of the counties have unemployment rates lower than those in the three non-waived counties. And just two of the waived counties actually have an unemployment rate over 10 percent—the absolute threshold that qualifies an area for waiving.

    All of this indicates that many Californian ABAWDs—78 percent of whom do not work—are not stymied by a weak economy, but rather are being protected from work requirements for some other reason.

    California took advantage of three features of the federal regulations governing waivers. First, states are allowed to combine contiguous areas for purposes of calculating the unemployment rate to be compared with the national rate. For example, if within two contiguous counties of the same population one has an unemployment rate of 5 percent, and the other has an unemployment rate of 15 percent, the state could combine those two for an average unemployment rate of 10 percent, thus exempting both counties from work requirements.

    Second, federal regulations stipulate that state agencies get to set the two-year period that is averaged to determine a contiguous area's unemployment rate. This means that a state could select the two-year period with the highest average unemployment rate, increasing its chance of getting a work-requirement waiver.

    And third, the two-year period can't begin earlier than the period the federal government uses to assess which areas of the country have an unemployment rate 20 percent higher than the national average. The new 24-month period is set by the Department of Labor every fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1.

    California responded in three ways to maximize its likelihood of getting a waiver. First, it sought a waiver for a 55-county contiguous area that maximized the average unemployment rate in that area. Second, it selected a period of time—April 2015 to March 2017—in which the unemployment rate in that area was exactly 20 percent higher than the national unemployment rate. And third, it carefully filed its waiver application in September of 2017, which meant that it was allowed to use data from 2015.

    This meant that the 55 counties had a cumulative unemployment rate of 5.9 percent for the two-year period, compared with a 4.95 percent rate for the same period nationwide. This, USDA concluded, was enough to garner a work waiver.

    This delicate balance shows how California massaged statistics to produce a high unemployment rate amid huge prosperity. For example, had California filed in October, it would have been required to use a range beginning no earlier than January 2016. If it had done this—by virtue of its steadily declining unemployment rate, as depicted above—then the unemployment rate in its defined contiguous area could not have been 20 percent higher than the national one.

    Assuming, for example, that California had selected the range January 2016 to January 2018, the nationwide rate would be 4.61 percent, while the unemployment rate across the 55 counties would be 5.3 percent, just 14 percent higher.

    The consequence of all this is that, in the middle of a booming economy, hundreds of thousands of able-bodied, childless Californians won't be obliged to work. Many will opt not to.

    The key loophole California took advantage of—the combination of contiguous areas—is addressed in the House of Representative's version of the 2018 farm bill. The bill stipulates that, in general, waivers can only be sought for individual counties or the whole state, not for contiguous areas. The farm bill has passed the House and, in a different form, the Senate, but now must go through a reconciliation process that will turn in part on major differences in how SNAP is administered.

    The California Department of Social Services did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

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  2. #2
    MW is offline
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    Nothing I hear coming out of California surprises me these days.

    "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" ** Edmund Burke**

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    Moderator Beezer's Avatar
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    And how many are illegal aliens!

    Give the database to ICE...round them up and deport them!


  4. #4
    MW is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beezer View Post
    And how many are illegal aliens!

    Give the database to ICE...round them up and deport them!
    I suspect quite a few are getting them through their anchor babies.

    "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" ** Edmund Burke**

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  5. #5
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    07/12/2017 03:14 pm ET

    Food Stamp ‘Work Requirements’ Are Kind Of A Sham

    A closer look at the supposed success of work requirements in Kansas and Maine.

    By Arthur Delaney

    WASHINGTON ― The Trump administration and conservative Republicans in Congress are pushing to impose strict “work requirements” on people who receive food stamps as part of an intra-party brawl over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

    It’s unclear if the faction that wants to slash SNAP will get their way, but in any case, “work requirement” is a bad description of the policy in question: a moralistic time limit on benefits that cuts people off even if no suitable work is available.

    A funny thing about the SNAP debate, which for quirky parliamentary reasons could derail Republicans’ dreams of reforming the tax system, is that federal law already contains a work requirement for people who receive food stamps (the program’s former name, by which SNAP is still informally known). The time limit has kicked hundreds of thousands of people off benefits in recent years. Republicans want to make that requirement even stricter.

    The food stamp work requirement is an overlooked part of broader reforms enacted in 1996 amid a national panic over so-calledwelfare queens.” Unemployed adults without dependents or disabilities must work 20 hours per week or lose their benefits. The law offers some leeway on what counts as work ― training or volunteering can qualify ― and states are allowed to waive the limit during times of high unemployment. With jobless rates falling, most states have been re-imposing the limit. Republicans have pointed to enrollment declines in Kansas and Maine, which withdrew their waivers ahead of schedule, as evidence the policy is a success.

    After implementing the time limit at the end of 2013, Kansas shrank its number of childless able-bodied adults receiving SNAP benefits by 75 percent. “These reforms immediately freed nearly 13,000 Kansans from welfare on December 31, 2013,” the Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative think tank, said in a February 2016 analysis.

    And the people who lost their benefits were better off, according to this analysis: “Nearly 60 percent of those leaving food stamps found employment within 12 months and their incomes rose by an average of 127 percent per year,” the report said.

    A few months later, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services released a similar analysis of its October 2014 reimposition of work requirements, finding the incomes of Mainers kicked off the rolls had increased 114 percent.

    Though it makes sense that with lower unemployment rates it should be easier for SNAP recipients to find jobs, the reports have several critics. The liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said the biggest problem is that the analyses fail to account for the fact that someone on food stamps doesn’t necessarily remain on food stamps indefinitely. In other words, many of those able-bodied adults would have stopped receiving benefits and gotten jobs even if the government hadn’t cut them off.

    “The authors fail to acknowledge that many SNAP recipients who are subject to the time limit were working already, or would soon be working, and as a result, their work rates and wages would likely have risen without the time limit,” the Center on Budget’s Ed Bolen and Stacy Dean wrote in a lengthy critique last December. According to their analysis of federal survey data from earlier years, fully three-quarters of nondisabled adults without dependents work within a year of receiving SNAP benefits, both before and after.

    The Center on Budget faulted the FGA’s Kansas report for not including a “comparison group” to show how able-bodied adults without dependents fare on food stamps absent the policy change ― perhaps by looking at SNAP recipient wages from previous years. Report co-author Nicholas Horton said they could not have included a comparison group because the work requirement affected all SNAP recipients in Kansas.

    “This wasn’t a scientific experiment,” Horton said. “We studied the effects of a policy change and we looked at specific individuals and their work situations before a policy change occurred, and then after that policy change occurred, and we measured the results of that.”

    Daniel Schroeder, a research scientist with the Ray Marshall Center at the University of Texas at Austin, said the FGA deserved credit for trying to track the incomes of food stamp recipients over time.

    “It’s good to do longitudinal research. It’s good to follow up,” he said. “But their conclusions are much stronger than their design allows.”

    Schroeder has also studied state SNAP policies on time limits for childless adults without disabilities. From 2003 through 2014, Texas waived the time limit in various counties with high unemployment, creating a natural experiment: How did adults without disabilities fare on food stamps in waiver counties versus non-waiver counties?
    What they don’t know in that Kansas report is what would have happened to these people had you not kicked them off.Daniel Schroeder

    Schroeder found that there is not a huge difference. In Texas counties with waivers, able-bodied adults without dependents typically received benefits for 3.7 months, compared with 3.2 months in counties that didn’t have waivers, according to research Schroeder presented at a conference in 2015.

    Nondisabled adults in waiver and non-waiver counties also had very similar income levels in the 18 months after they began to receive food stamps.

    One thing that was different, however, was that the people who were allowed to keep their food stamps had a lot more money for food. The average earnings in both groups were only about $500 per month.

    “The basic idea is that you have to be able to observe what would happen in the other case, the counterfactual,” Schroeder said. “What they don’t know in that Kansas report is what would have happened to these people had you not kicked them off.”

    FGA research has drawn skepticism before. The state of Florida cited a Foundation report in defense of its 2011 welfare drug testing law, which had been challenged in federal court. The report claimed drug testing had saved an implausible amount of money by discouraging people from finishing their benefit applications. A judge practically laughed the FGA out of court, saying its brief on the matter “is not competent expert opinion, nor is it offered as such, nor could it be reasonably construed as such.”

    The foundation’s founder, Tarren Bragdon, started his career in Maine, where he served in the state legislature and as director of a think tank called the Maine Heritage Policy Center. The organization generally offered analyses supporting Republican policy objectives, much as the Foundation for Government Accountability does today. Nevertheless, in 2011 a former Republican state senator reportedly called the organization’s work “oversimplistic and exaggerated.”

    The reports on successful “welfare reform” in Kansas and Maine have ricocheted through conservative media and served as inspiration for new legislation by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who cited Maine’s example in a press release. The Jordan-Lee bill would shorten the federal time limit on SNAP from three months to one, increase the number of work hours required, and also apply the limit to nondisabled adults who have children.

    Why add parents? Because that’s where the money is. The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers SNAP, indicates that 44 percent of SNAP recipients are children, while only about 10 percent are able-bodied adults without children ― a figure from fiscal 2014 that has probably fallen since then.

    Another part of the Jordan-Lee bill that hasn’t received much attention would limit food stamp purchases only to foods deemed “essential” by the government, an idea that’s been gathering steam in recent years. Currently, food stamps can be used for any food product in a supermarket except alcohol.

    The provisions of the legislation have apparently become a sticking point between Republican leaders and the conservative House Freedom Caucus, of which Jordan is a former chairman. The disagreement has helped further delay a budget resolution that is already months behind schedule.

    Republicans had planned to do tax reform as part of the budget process, because that would allow them to get legislation through the Senate with only 50 votes. So if they can’t decide whether they will use food stamp cuts to pay for increased military spending and President Donald Trump’s border wall, they won’t be able to cut taxes, either.

    The Jordan-Lee bill would reduce SNAP spending by more than 20 percent over 10 years, according Robert Rector, a welfare expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation.

    Rector said the measure would give states plenty of funding to make sure anyone in danger of losing their SNAP benefits could enroll in a state-provided work activity, like job training, that would allow them to meet the work requirement.

    “You are given an opportunity to do community service or training and you only lose your benefit if you refuse to do those things,” Rector said, adding that it’s fair to call it a “work requirement” ― but only if a state provides opportunities for people to enroll in training.

    In addition to the many jobs available, Rector said, the Maine state government provided plenty of opportunities for community service or training, though his own analysis notes that the state had prepared only 1,000 slots in its Food Supplement Employment and Training Program. More than 10,000 people were subject to the work requirement.

    Chris Hastedt, policy director for Maine Equal Justice Partners, said the state only operated four workforce centers where people could participate in the program, so the commute may have been an obstacle for some Mainers.

    “Not everybody had that opportunity, putting aside what kind of opportunity it was,” Hastedt said.

    The state said that of the roughly 2,000 people who met the work requirement and kept their benefits after 2014, most did so by working and “a few” may have fulfilled the requirement through training or volunteering. Rector said the people who were cut off probably made money from informal work arrangements that weren’t reported to the state. His analysis also argued that able-bodied adults without dependents tend to waste a lot of money on cigarettes, so they probably didn’t need their food benefit that badly.

    “Those who don’t show up are not irrational people,” Rector said. “You can reasonably conclude that they were not starving.”


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