Will SNAP benefits change under the debt limit deal?

  • The tentative debt limit deal includes some additional work requirements
  • The working age requirement for some on food stamps will go from 49 to 54
  • Veterans, homeless and young people leaving foster care would be exempt

(NewsNation) — Democrats and Republicans appear to have reached a compromise on a debt limit deal that expands work requirements for some Americans who receive government assistance while exempting others.

The two sides had been deadlocked on the issue, with Republicans calling for stricter work requirements as a way to reduce spending, while Democrats called any additional requirements a “nonstarter.”

As it currently stands, the tentative agreement phases in higher age limits under which people will have to work in order to be eligible for food stamps.

At the same time, the deal expands the number of people, including veterans and those who are homeless, who would be exempt from such requirements.

What’s in?

For Republicans, the deal includes additional work requirements for some Americans on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

Able-bodied individuals ages 54 and younger without children will have to work or participate in a job-training program for at least 20 hours a week in order to qualify for extended SNAP benefits.

Previously, work requirements applied to those adults ages 49 and younger.

The agreement also lowers the number of exemptions that states can issue on their own.

Those provisions will be viewed as a win for Republicans, who have long pushed for work requirements as a way to cut spending and incentivize participation in the labor force.

“This is the largest change to welfare reform, the biggest improvement to work requirements since the 1996 act,” Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., told NewsNation.

For those on the other side of the aisle, the deal expands the number of people who are exempt from such requirements — a priority for Democrats. Under the tentative agreement, veterans, homeless people and young people aging out of foster care would be exempt.

Previously, only those who were unable to work due to mental or physical limitations, or those who were pregnant or had dependents under 18 did not have to fulfill the requirements.

It’s unclear how many people will be impacted if the current deal goes through, or how much money will be saved as a result.

Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., said the White House told the Congressional Progressive Caucus that the number of people who will be subject to the stricter work requirements is roughly equal to those who are now exempt.

President Joe Biden’s budget director Shalanda Young reiterated that claim at a press conference Tuesday and said the bill will not increase poverty due to the new exemption categories.

Under the House GOP’s bill in April, expanding work requirements for SNAP recipients was expected to reduce federal spending by $11 billion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), although that legislation had more stringent provisions than the eventual deal.

Last year, more than 41 million people received SNAP benefits each month, according to the Agriculture Department. That’s about 15% higher than the 35.7 million people receiving those benefits before the pandemic in 2019.

The agreement also tightens some work requirements for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, which gives cash to families with children.

Under the deal, the expanded work requirements would expire in 2030.

What’s out?

House Republicans had been pushing for new work requirements for some Medicaid recipients, but those provisions did not make the tentative deal.

Under the GOP’s initial legislation, some able-bodied Medicaid recipients without dependents would have been required to work, or participate in training, for at least 20 hours a week. Those requirements were expected to reduce federal spending by $120 billion over the decade, the CBO estimated.

Congressional Democrats and President Biden were adamantly opposed to any work requirements for Medicaid recipients, arguing that such provisions would lead to fewer people being able to afford health care.

The CBO estimated that 600,000 Medicaid recipients could have become uninsured under the GOP’s initial plan, which did not come to fruition.

As of February, roughly 86 million people are enrolled in the government-sponsored program. That’s up about 20 million people since January 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, when lawmakers expanded certain Medicaid eligibility provisions.


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