A federal lawmaker wants to know why Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration helped nearly every county in the state sidestep work requirements for food stamps users.
Taylorville U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis applauded President Donald Trump administration’s move to reform rules governing the waivers that states seek from work requirements for food stamps. And he wants to know why Rauner’s administration sought another waiver from the federal rules for 2019 despite low unemployment.
Last month state officials said they requested a waiver from the federal work requirements for able-bodied adults without kids to get food stamps. The request was for all Illinois counties except DuPage.
“All counties in Illinois are included in the waiver request with the exception of DuPage County due to low unemployment rates,” Illinois Department of Human Services spokeswoman Meghan Powers said.
More than 1.7 million people in Illinois enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits in August, about 13.2 percent of the state’s population.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, wants more answers.
“I want to know from the Governor why did you just knock DuPage County out because it conveniently gave Illinois the right percentage go give Illinois the right to this waiver process,” Davis said.
Davis said there are plenty of jobs for able-bodied adults, but last month IDHS said many such people have mental illness, substance use disorders or significant physical limitations. Davis said he isn’t buying it.
“The statistics just don’t bear that out,” Davis said. “We’re talking about 74 percent of able-bodied adults in Illinois that don’t fit into those expectations.”
The Foundation for Government Accountability estimates of 346,000 able-bodied adults without kids in Illinois, 9,000 are subject to work requirements.
The Trump administration has proposed changing the rules for granting such waivers to states like Illinois.
Officials with the Illinois Department of Human Services plan provide Davis with additional information about the waiver.
“Yesterday we received a letter from Congressman Davis regarding Illinois’ recent [Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents] waiver request,” Powers said. “We are pulling together the information requested by the congressman and will be responding directly to him in the upcoming days.”
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the changes are meant to restore the system to what it was meant to be: Assistance through difficult times, not lifelong dependency.
When the federal farm bill passed without waiver reforms, Davis said it was a missed opportunity. He applauded the Trump administration’s move to make things more stringent.
“Illinois and states would have to have a threshold of at least 7 percent total unemployment before they can ask for a blanket waiver like Illinois did,” Davis said.
The rule would apply to able-bodied people, between the ages of 18 and 49, who don’t have dependents. The rule would not apply to the elderly, the disabled, or pregnant women.
Opponents of the work rules say taking food away from people doesn’t help them get jobs.
“There is no evidence that draconian work requirements have any effect on people’s ability to find and maintain a job, and plenty of evidence that it hurts people,” said Illinois Collaboration of Youth CEO Andrea Durbin. “Instead, Illinois and the nation should be focusing on strengthening services that help people achieve well-being so they can reach their potential and give back to the community as employed adults.”
Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register there will be a 60-day comment period.