| KANSAS CITY, Kan., Sept 28
KANSAS CITY, Kan., Sept 28 As Congress and the
White House debate proposed cuts in the federal food stamps
program, Kansas and Oklahoma are going ahead with reductions
that could leave thousands of people without subsidies for food
if they do not find work, or sign up for job training.
The two states will require healthy adults through the age
of 49 with no dependents to work at least 20 hours per week, or
be in job training, in order to be eligible for food stamps.
The change takes effect on Tuesday, when those states allow
a federal waiver of the work requirement to expire. Wisconsin
will take a similar step next July, bringing to eight the number
of states requiring work to get the assistance.
"These are people who should be working," said Theresa
Freed, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Children and
Families. "There are plenty of jobs available."
A near-record 48 million Americans - or about one in seven -
receive food stamps, government data shows.
The Food Stamp Program administered by the U.S. Agriculture
Department provides paper coupons or debit cards for low-income
people to buy food. But states can ask for the work requirement
to be added, which Oklahoma and Kansas have done.
Phyllis Gilmore, Secretary of the Kansas Department for
Children and Families, announced the work requirement in early
September. In Oklahoma, a bill approved by state lawmakers
earlier this year made the change. Both of those two states, as
well as Wisconsin, have a Republican governor and
Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon said the work
requirement would help food stamp recipients to "break their
addiction to government subsidies."
The change will affect about 20,000 Kansas residents, state
officials said. Oklahoma Department of Human Services spokesman
Mark Beutler said he was not sure how many people would be
The changes have drawn criticism from some advocates for the
poor and unemployed.
"It's the wrong thing to do," said Louis Goseland, campaign
director for Sunflower Community Action, based in Wichita,
Kansas. "It's not as though starving 20,000 people will do
anything to change unemployment. It is punitive to the most
vulnerable people in the state."
President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package in 2009
suspended the work requirement nationwide to help the growing
number of unemployed during the recession. Even as the economy
and job picture have improved, the waiver has remained in most
Five states - Delaware, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont and
Wyoming - have not used the waiver in recent years for a variety
of reasons, according to a recent report by Pew Charitable
Trusts, an independent public policy research group.
The waiver still allows unemployed people to get food
stamps, but only for three months within a 36-month period. That
means in Kansas and Oklahoma some people will have three months
from Oct. 1 either to find a job or enroll in a federal
The tighter restrictions follow a vote by the
Republican-majority U.S. House of Representatives on Sept. 24 to
cut food stamp spending by $40 billion.
Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it passes the
Senate. The White House said foods stamps help stave off poverty
One provision of the House bill would limit healthy adults
with no dependents to three months of food stamps over a
three-year period unless they were working or in a job training
program, similar to what will soon be required in Kansas,
Oklahoma and Wisconsin.