Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Minimal effort small price to pay to get benefits

Some food stamp recipients will once again have to make a personal effort if they want to keep receiving public assistance.

That’s because the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is returning to pre-recession requirements for many eligible adults. Able-bodied adults who do not have children will have to either work 20 hours a week, be in a job training program or perform community service in order to qualify for food stamp assistance.

Last year, the state restored a job search requirement for adults ages 18 to 50 but continued to exempt those caring for children.

Now, starting in October, Gov. Susana Martinez’ administration plans to restore the work requirement for childless adults and expand it to 16- and 17-year-olds if they’re not attending school or in a training program and to adults ages 51 to 59.

About 420,000 New Mexicans receive a food stamp benefit averaging $265 a month — about 46 percent are children.

SNAP benefits are based on income. An individual may earn up to just under $19,000 a year and qualify.

Many public assistance programs have some sort of work requirement.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed legislation adding a workforce development component to welfare, encouraging employment among the poor.

New Mexico’s welfare program has a work component, says Human Services Department spokesman Matt Kennicott. And, he points out, the waiver to the 2009 work requirement for the food stamp program “was only temporary and was never intended to stay indefinitely.”

Anti-poverty advocates worry that food stamp recipients may have difficulty finding a 20-hour per week job. Though many parts of the country are recovering from the 2008-09 recession, New Mexico is still struggling. But there are jobs for people willing to work. Many may be low skill and low wage, but working is better than not working for many reasons.

Federal and state welfare spending today, adjusted for inflation, is 16 times greater than it was when President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the War on Poverty in the mid-1960s, according to Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation. During that same 50 years, the percentage of Americans living in poverty has remained steady, around 15 percent.

This isn’t what taxpayers and lawmakers — or Presidents Johnson or Clinton — had in mind when they signed laws to help the truly needy.

So asking recipients to demonstrate some interest in the concept of regular activity — whether it’s work, job training or community service — is a small price for what they get in return.

— Albuquerque Journal