By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
Gov. Brad Little signed a bill this week to add work requirements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps, but his transmittal letter has strong warnings for the Legislature.
The legislation, House Bill 161, passed both the House and Senate on party-line votes.
The SNAP program already requires most recipients to either work or participate in an employment training program, in addition to meeting income requirements. Data from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare shows nearly half of the SNAP recipients in Idaho are children.
The legislation applies to “able-bodied adults” and would require them to work a minimum of 30 hours per week to receive SNAP benefits.
It would also prohibit IDHW from granting “geographic waivers” without the Legislature’s approval, prohibit “no-good-cause” waivers, and implement mandatory employment training. Geographic waivers are granted when an area has an insufficient number of jobs. A good-cause waiver is granted when the department determines a valid reason exists for the person.
In the transmittal letter, signed Monday, Little said he is a strong supporter of employment and training requirements, saying Idaho has successfully operated employment training programs for many years.
“I appreciate the spirit of this legislation to fully and appropriately apply work and training opportunities to help benefit recipients enter or advance in the workforce. However, the implementation of this legislation and balancing it with federal regulations and timelines presents risk,” Little wrote. “I caution future policy makers to closely monitor the impacts of this legislation to ensure it does not result in federal non-compliance and even jeopardize the federal funds available for our employment and training program.”
According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s 2022-2023 data, the state had 123,278 individuals enrolled in SNAP and of those, about 44% of those people are children. The data shows 53,891 of Idaho SNAP recipients are ages 0-18.
IDHW requires SNAP recipient “families must live in Idaho, be U.S. citizens or meet specific criteria for lawful residency, have income at or below 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Limit for family size, and meet resource limits. Adult participants must participate in a work program, unless they are