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Friday, July 6, 2018

Controversial job requirements for beneficiaries of social assistance

Por Damian

Created in order to increase the income and job prospects of people who earn little, the job requirements proposed for those receiving food stamps could have another effect: increase poverty among those who lose benefits and can´t find employment, researchers said recently, as it was reported by El Nuevo Herald in its digital site.

That was exactly what happened to almost one million single mothers following 1996´s welfare reform which imposed labor demands and limitations while receiving cash assistance, at a time when the US economy was just as dynamic as now.

Although many of the beneficiaries of social assistance found work and were able to escape poverty after the employment requirements were implemented, others lost their benefits when they could not fulfill what the law indicated in terms of working hours.

For these people, basically single mothers, "there was no welfare network to help them and they fell again" into poverty, with an income 50 percent below the federal poverty level, said Arloc Sherman, researcher for the studies group Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), of leftist tendency.

Among the households headed by women with children, the poverty rate more than doubled, from 2.7 percent - some 800,000 people in 1995 - to 5.7 percent, approximately 1.7 million people in 2005, according to a study by the CBPP of 2015.

"The information shows that it was the reduction in government assistance and not the changes in income that drove the sharp increase in poverty," Sherman said.

That level of deep poverty could rise again with the new demands of work that Congress is studying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), official name of the food stamp program, said Robert A. Moffitt, professor of Economics at the Johns Hopkins University.

"Almost certainly there will be many beneficiaries who will not be able to find enough income to compensate for the loss of those benefits," said Moffitt, who studies the economic problems faced by low-income Americans. "It is difficult to predict whether it will be 5 or 25 percent. But based on what we know from the experience of 1996, it will probably be a substantial minority. "

For food stamp recipients who have already lost benefits, "food assistance may be the only support they have for not being completely unprotected," Sherman said.

The SNAP program, one of the most effective in the country in the battle against poverty, reduced the number of people in a level of deep poverty by more than 4.6 million, almost 28 percent, in 2015, according to estimates of the Urban Institute, based on Census figures.

But Robert Doar, a well-known scholar of poverty at the American Enterprise Institute, said it is "a little exaggerated to predict with certainty that the result of this will be more poverty" for some program beneficiaries.

"I think the increased attention to employment of food stamp recipients who do not work would help these families and is more likely to lead them out of poverty than to keep them in poverty," said Doar, who administered the SNAP program of the state and the city of New York.

"For me it is not clear what will be the effect of the demands of work," he added.

"I think that as it will probably lead to more people working, it could also mean less serious poverty ... Much depends on the economy and at this moment the economy is very strong," Doar added.