Senate Workforce Committee advances bill to stiffen requirements for food stamps

By Matthew Young, RealWV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Senate Workforce Committee, on Tuesday, advanced legislation that would stiffen the eligibility requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits – otherwise known as “food stamps.”

As explained by Committee Counsel Mindy Parsley, the committee substitute for SB 562, “Expands employment and training requirements necessary for SNAP benefits.”

According to Parsley, the expansion of requirements would apply to “all able-bodied adults without dependents, unless they meet any of the exemptions outlined in the bill.” In the introduced version of the bill, the affected age-range of benefit-recipients was initially between 18 and 52 years. However, the committee substitute adjusts the age-range to between 18 and 59 years. 

Exemptions contained within the bill include students enrolled in school or vocational training at least half of the time, individuals participating in addiction rehabilitation programs, and individuals who are employed a minimum of 30 hours per week.

Introduced by Workforce Committee Chair Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh, SB 562 also establishes reporting requirements that the Department of Humans Services would have to follow, with regard to advising the state legislature of the overall status of the SNAP program. 

“Does this bill create mandatory work requirements for adults with dependents?” Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, asked at the conclusion of Parsley’s explanation.

“No,” replied Parsley. “It’s currently restricted to those able-bodied adults without dependents. That did not change in the committee substitute, it’s just the age-range that gets expanded.”

On-hand to speak to the proposal was Deputy Commissioner for Programs and Policy Kent Novitsky, with the Bureau for Family Assistance, who told committee members, “There will be some costs for system development.”

“There will be some cost for programming changes that are necessary,” Novitsky noted. “We don’t have a really firm figure on that. Ultimately how this is done is it’s going to have to come down to a long process of negotiation with the federal government.”

“The system programming cost will be 50% state funded,” Novitsky added. “There will be some requirement for participant reimbursements that would also be 50% state funded.”

Sen. Patrick Martin, R-Lewis, asked Novitsky if there is an accurate estimate of how many SNAP recipients the bill will impact, to which Novitsky replied, “It’ll fluctuate from month to month.”

“As of the end of last month, ballpark figure, probably fewer than 8,000 people,” Novitsky said. 

After adoption of the committee substitute, the bill will be forwarded to the Senate Committee on Finance for further consideration. RealWV will provide updates as to the progress of SB 562 as additional information is made available. 

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