The part of the debt ceiling deal that imposes new work requirements on an older segment of the population seeking food stamp benefits apparently will not impact New York residents this year, because of a waiver the state received earlier in the year, a spokeswoman for Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday.
One of the hotly contested aspects of the debt ceiling debate to try to rein in federal spending centered on imposing work requirements under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps, on certain individuals up to age 54. Those work requirements already affected some people ages 18 to 49.
In normal circumstances, childless adults in the 18-to-49 age group are subject to a time limit rule. Under it, SNAP benefits "are limited to three months within a three-year period, unless the individual is working or enrolled in a work program for 80 hours each month," according to a fact sheet from Hunger Solutions New York.
But the federal government granted New York a waiver of the work requirement and time limit rule, first from Oct. 1, 2022, through Sept. 30, 2023. The state got an extension earlier this year, through Feb. 29, 2024, according to a "General Information System message" from the state's Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance issued in February.
WHAT TO KNOW
- The debt ceiling deal imposes new work requirements on an older segment of the population seeking food stamp benefits.
- The impact on New Yorkers apparently would not be affected immediately, a state official said, because of a federal waiver of the work requirement that the state received through Feb. 29, 2024.
- Republicans say that expanding work requirements for government assistance programs results in more people returning to the workforce. But some nonprofit officials said imposing work requirements on older adults places more barriers on a vulnerable, food-insecure population.
"New York State residents will continue to be exempt from SNAP work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents based on a federal waiver granted earlier this year," Aja Worthy-Davis, the governor's deputy communications director, wrote in an email. She added, "we are closely monitoring the changes being discussed at the federal level."
A spokeswoman for the Suffolk County executive's office referred questions about the work-requirement regulations to the state. A spokesman for Nassau County didn't respond to requests for comment.
Republicans argue that expanding work requirements for government assistance programs result in more people returning to the workforce. “We’re going to return these programs to being a life vest, not a lifestyle,” Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, the vice chair of the House Republican conference, told reporters, according to The Associated Press.
But some nonprofit officials said imposing work requirements on older adults places more barriers on a vulnerable, food-insecure population.
A Washington, D.C.-based policy research organization, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, was critical of the work requirement in a story published on its website.
"SNAP’s existing work-reporting requirement has proven to be a failure," it said, citing the time-limit rule. "Numerous studies have shown that this requirement does not improve employment or earnings, but it does take away SNAP’s food assistance from a substantial share of people who are subject to it."
The center, which did a state-by-state look at the number of people ages 50 to 54 who were at risk of losing SNAP benefits under the new regulation, estimated 45,000 New Yorkers could lose them.
Under the debt ceiling bill that Congress passed last week, changes to the SNAP work requirements would affect 50-year-olds 90 days after its enactment. By the beginning of fiscal year 2023 in October, the work rule would apply to those age 51 to 52; and by October 2024, it would apply to those 53 and 54. Republicans agreed to new exemptions to the rule, such as for veterans and homeless persons, among others. President Joe Biden signed the bill Saturday.
"Arbitrary SNAP time limits don’t increase the workforce, they simply take food off the table from folks who are struggling," said Rebecca Sanin, president and chief executive of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island. "These time limit restrictions will impact people’s life outcomes and health outcomes and reinforces the notion that access to food is a privilege rather than a human right."
Kathy Rosenthal, senior vice president for programs at the Family Service League, a nonprofit social service agency based in Huntington, had a similar view.
"So we’re putting older people who may have more barriers in that same bucket," Rosenthal said.
"Of course it’s going to be harder for a 54-year-old to get a job than someone under 50. ... What’s happening is we’re putting more vulnerable people in a position to be more food insecure because of this work requirement for those older people," she said.