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House Bill 161 — SNAP, work requirements

House Bill 161 — SNAP, work requirements

Parrish Miller
February 20, 2023

Bill Description: House Bill 161 would make it more difficult for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to refrain from enforcing statutory work requirements for some food stamp recipients. 

Rating: +1

Does it increase government redistribution of wealth? Examples include the use of tax policy or other incentives to reward specific interest groups, businesses, politicians, or government employees with special favors or perks; transfer payments; and hiring additional government employees. Conversely, does it decrease government redistribution of wealth?

House Bill 161 would amend Section 56-205, Idaho Code, to make it more difficult for the Department of Health and Welfare to bypass statutory work requirements for some food stamp recipients. 

There would still be a host of exceptions from work requirements, including for those taking care of a "dependent child under the age of six (6) years or of an incapacitated person" and students "enrolled at least half-time in any recognized school, training program, or institution of higher education." There would also be an exception for "a regular participant in a drug addiction or alcoholic treatment and rehabilitation program." 

Another exception would apply to anyone "employed a minimum of thirty (30) hours per week or receiving weekly earnings that equal the minimum hourly rate under the fair labor standards act of 1938, as amended, multiplied by thirty (30) hours." It should be noted that, since even employers like McDonald's and Walmart now routinely pay in excess of double the minimum wage, this provision would typically be fulfilled by working an 8-hour shift just two days per week. 

The bill also allows the department to invent new exceptions, "such as but not necessarily including exemptions for lack of transportation or pregnancy." 

The bill does say the department "may not, in any fiscal year, provide exemptions to a number of individuals equal to or greater than twenty percent (20%) of the total number of work registrants enrolled the previous fiscal year without first obtaining specific authorization from the legislature to do so."

The bill would also require that, "in the event that the director of the department of health and welfare finds that employment and training assignments cannot be funded or provided to all individuals subject to such assignment under this section, the director shall submit a report within fourteen (14) days of first failing to make a required assignment to all members of the legislature and the governor," explaining the reasons for the failure.

The director will also be required to "provide updates to all members of the legislature and the governor every thirty (30) days as to the metrics and plans submitted in the first report for as long as the department is failing to make all such required assignments." 

Under the bill, the director must also "continue to assign as many individuals subject to the requirement as possible, prioritizing adults without dependents who have been enrolled for more than one (1) year."

The reforms contained in House Bill 161 are designed to address the unfortunate reality that the Department of Health and Welfare does not sufficiently enforce the work requirements expected of food stamp recipients. While the bill is still riddled with exceptions and loopholes, there would be fewer under this bill than exist currently, making it a step in the right direction. 


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