The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is under consideration in both the Appropriations debate as well as the looming Farm Bill reauthorization due this year. These debates are happening as a “hunger cliff” is affecting SNAP, as benefits are being rolled back resulting in reductions of $82 per month on average, a significant sum for families with low income.

SNAP currently includes strict work requirements: those that are unemployed or do not meet the required hours are limited to three months of benefits in a three-year period. Representative Barbara Lee [D-CA] on the House Agriculture Committee introduced a bill called Improving Access to Nutrition Act of 2023 (H.R. 1510) that proposes to remove the stringent work requirements and time-requirements that penalize unemployed and underemployed people. It has over 40 cosponsors.

Representative Lee’s bill is a response to the House Majority’s desire to reduce SNAP spending by adding even more restrictions, evidenced by Representative Dusty Johnson’s [R-SD] proposed bill titled the America Works Act (H.R. 1581). The bill requires that workers must have at least 80 hours of work to qualify and extends these requirements to some older adults and parents, which increases barriers for people with disabilities and people without access to childcare. It has more than 35 cosponsors.

Under Johnson’s bill, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that more than 10 million people or 1 in 4 SNAP participants, live in households at risk of losing food assistance benefits, including 4 million children. States also would lose the ability to carry over unused exemptions to the work requirements in this bill. Research has found that SNAP work requirements only reduce the number of people on food assistance, and do not increase employment or earnings outcomes. Ranking Member David Scott [D-GA] of the House Agriculture Committee wrote in a recent Op-Ed that “the people most impacted will be veterans, teenagers aging out of foster care, and others who face barriers to work including those with mental health issues.”

By Ava Cloghessy, Policy Intern