Some 22,000 Idahoans on food stamps are not required to look for work while on the government welfare program, but that could soon change due to action by the budget committee Friday morning.
Members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee voted 18-0 on a Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) budget that includes $250,000 for work search verification to allow the agency to compel the 22,000 recipients to look for work.
Of the 235,000 Idahoans on food stamps, 40 percent of them, or about 93,000, are non-disabled adults without children. A portion of them, about 22,000, are not required to do any work searches or job applications to take part in the program.
The 22,000 are without jobs and don’t qualify for unemployment benefits, which require recipients to be actively seeking work in order to receive money.
It wasn’t always that way, however. DHW spokesman Tom Shanahan told IdahoReporter.com that budget cuts in 2009 forced the agency to stop forcing the single Idahoans to look for work.
There is another segment of food stamp recipients that neither earns a paycheck nor qualifies for unemployment benefits, but is required to seek work in order to qualify for aid. As part of a block grant from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Family program administered by the state, about 31,000 adults with children fall into this classification and are required to look for work to receive food stamps.
Another 40,000 adults are either working or qualify for unemployment payments. About 48 percent of food stamp recipients are children.
Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, asked Russ Baron, a DHW program manager with the food stamps program, if the agency works with the Idaho Department of Labor to aid in job searches. Barron responded that the agency does not, but rather has a statewide contract with Easter Seals Goodwill for services in that area.
After the meeting, Hagedorn expressed displeasure that DHW isn’t working with the state’s foremost job-finding agency on the issue.
The budget containing the $250,000 in work search verification money now heads to the House floor.
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