Question of the Month: Do any Midwestern states still have federal waivers that suspend work requirements for individuals to receive food stamps?

One policy consequence of the Great Recession was a rise across the country in the use of these waivers, which lift limits on the amount of time that able-bodied adults without dependents can receive payments under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. If a state does not seek and receive such a federal waiver, its able-bodied recipients can receive food stamps for only three months over any three-year period.
The federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 temporarily suspended these time limits across the country, thus simplifying the process for states to secure a waiver. More recently, though, with jobless rates falling in many parts of the country, federal policy has reverted to pre-recession rules under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act.

Under this 1996 law, SNAP recipients who are able-bodied and not raising minor children must be working, seeking work, or participating in a job training or “workfare” program. The three-month time limit is imposed on individuals not meeting this requirement. 

Kansas was among the first U.S. states to reinstate the work mandate. Starting in October 2013, nondisabled adults between the ages of 18 and 49 and without dependents needed to work at least 20 hours a week or enroll in a job training program in order to continue receiving food-assistance benefits. The number of SNAP recipients in that state has since dropped by 75 percent.
By fiscal year 2015, six states in the Midwest (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota) had lost eligibility to seek a statewide SNAP waiver from the federal government. The reason: improved economic and employment conditions meant the state no longer met federal guidelines to forgo the work requirement.
As of April, Illinois and Michigan were two of only seven U.S. states with a statewide waiver. All other states have the work requirement in place — because the state chose to eliminate the waiver, the waiver expired, or the state no longer qualifies for it. 
Another option is to seek a partial waiver for parts of a state that have jobless rates of 10 percent or that demonstrate a “lack of sufficient jobs.” For example, Ohio successfully sought waivers for 18 counties in the southeastern and southern areas of the state. Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota also currently have partial waivers.


Stateline Midwest: May 20162.42 MB