State to Reinstate Work Requirement for Food Stamps

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Governor Bill Haslam
  • Governor Bill Haslam

Work requirements will be reinstated for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in most Tennessee counties, state officials announced Monday.

The requirement was waived here in 2008 during the recession. But Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes said the requirements would now apply to “able-bodied adults without dependents” (ABAWD).

“This waiver was necessary at a time when people were hurting from the recession. But nearly a decade later, Tennessee is one of the top locations in the Southeast for high quality jobs, and it’s now difficult to justify waiving the work requirement for adults without dependents who are able to work,” Haslam said in a statement. “We have experienced record low unemployment rates and substantial job growth in Tennessee, and if you can’t find a job, we are here to help you through a network of resources and opportunities across the state.”
The work requirement waiver will remain in 16 counties designated as distressed and have a labor surplus. It was not immediately clear which counties will retain the waiver.

The work requirement is currently in place in nine counties, seven of which surround Davidson County, where the economy showed faster improvement.

Of the approximately 1 million Tennesseans who receive SNAP benefits, the re-instated work requirement will likely impact 58,000 “able-bodied individuals without dependents who are not currently meeting the requirement.”



To satisfy the ABAWD work requirement, you must work at least 20 hours per week, or participate in qualifying education and training activities at least 20 hours per week. You can also qualify if you’re in an approved workfare/volunteer program at least 20 hours per week.

DHS will partner with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Economic and Community Development to those to meet the work requirement in the affected counties.

“We are excited to collaborate with other state agencies, local communities and employers to build a bridge connecting our customers directly with employment opportunities,” Barnes said. “Education and employment are critical for individuals to build a sturdy foundation for stronger communities.”

In the 2018 legislative session, Haslam wants to reduce “fraud, waste, and abuse associated with welfare programs while encouraging self-sufficiency by incentivizing work.”

To do this, he will propose:

• Seek approval to join a multi-state cooperative to identify dual participation in programs
• Strengthen investigations of multiple EBT card replacements
• Increase the ability to investigate fraud with additional tools
• Reduce the fiscal cliff for families meeting the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF or Families First) work requirements by providing a work incentive transitional benefit
• Encourage family stabilization by linking the TANF maximum benefit to the current standard of need


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