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Residents of this state will soon be required to work in order to receive food stamps

The state of Tennessee is reinstating work requirements for most of its residents in order to receive food stamps. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Which state is making the change? 

Tennessee is reinstating food stamp work requirements that were previously rolled back in 2008 at the peak of the economic recession.

What are the new work requirements?

In most counties, able-bodied adults in Tennessee who do not have any dependents will have to work at least 20 hours a week on a job, an approved volunteer program, or a qualified education or training program to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

When will the change take place?

Gov. Bill Haslam announced this week that the reinstatement will go into effect Feb. 1, 2018, and current recipients will have 90 days — until May 18 — to comply.

How many people will the change affect?

58,000 of the nearly 1 million residents currently receiving SNAP assistance, according to the Tennessean. Nearly 36,000 already meet the work requirements.

Why the change?

The state's economic recovery since the requirements were waived in 2008.

"When we hit record low unemployment three months in a row, then it comes a time to look around and say, are we doing everything the right way? We looked at this and thought it's hard to justify a waiver," Gov. Haslam explained.

Are there any exemptions?

Tennesseans living in 16 counties that are categorized as economically distressed will not be required to meet the work requirements.

What are others saying?

"The fear has been, and remains, that unless this new policy is implemented carefully, local food retailers will suffer, church pantries will be overwhelmed and hunger will increase." — Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center. 

"Republicans in the General Assembly have been eager to expand the work requirement for SNAP benefits, and I applaud Governor Haslam and Commissioner Barnes for taking what I see as the next logical next step in statewide welfare reform. As speaker, I look forward to working with the administration and my colleagues on this issue during session." — Republican state Rep. Beth Harwell

"While our great state is doing well as a whole economically, there is a large number of Tennesseans who have not recovered with the same vigor and health as others. ... I am certainly against fraud and abuse of our social safety net, as well as every other aspect of our government, but I want to make sure that we are not using an axe where a scalpel is needed in weeding out abusers of the system." — Democratic state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh

"Memphians shouldn’t be allowed to go hungry, and while I am awaiting more details about how the governor’s workforce requirement policy for food stamps will be implemented, I fear that’s what may happen." — U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.)

"[Taxpayers] should not foot the bill for able-bodied recipients who are not trying to gain employment, which undermines the integrity and stability of the program." — Republican state Sen. Jim Tracy 




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