Low-income Idahoans who receive food benefits could be required to find jobs if that policy survives the final version of the 2018 Farm Bill. The U.S. House and Senate each has passed its own Farm Bill and now have to reconcile the two.
The House bill would mandate stricter work requirements for getting food assistance, nationwide. Christina Stucker-Gassi, a member of the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils, says the idea is that this would make people less dependent on federal assistance.
"But in practice, there's no proof to show that that reduces need, and it's an additional burden," she states. "Also, there's a lot of money that would be funneled into these job training programs, as well as cutting the overall funding for SNAP by around $20 billion over the next 10 years."
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program reached about 1 in 10 Idahoans in 2017, and more than three-quarters are families with children.
Stucker-Gassi expects that number will go down if work requirements are increased.
She says even if the policy is taken out of the final bill, it still has to go to President Donald Trump's desk - and he has expressed support for expanded work requirements.
Stucker-Gassi says adding hoops for people to jump through will keep more folks away from benefits, which means more will go hungry.
She also notes that Idaho already verifies people's salaries and employment frequently and that the state is testing pilot programs to help identify the best practices for this process.
"The Senate version of the Nutrition Title in the Farm Bill actually continues pilot programs for work requirements and verification pilots that have been in existence since the 2014 Farm Bill," she points out.
Stucker-Gassi says the House bill proposes an untested path for stricter requirements, using a mandate rather than a proven method.
The current Farm Bill is set to expire at the end of September.