At the end of March, 22 states will begin imposing work requirements on people who want food stamps. Hundreds of thousands of people will likely lose their food aid.
The Wall Street Journal reports that starting on April 1, all of those states plan to reinstate a rule that had been set aside after the financial crisis led to mass unemployment: that adults with no dependents or disabilities are limited to “three months of food stamps in any three-year period—unless they work at least 80 hours a month, or meet education and training or volunteer benchmarks.”
If people are unable to find a job, it is cruel to force them to starve, and it is foolish to make a poor, unemployed, hungry person sit through classes that will not directly lead to a job, or spend their time volunteering, for no income, simply so they can have food to eat, but no money or free time to obtain it. The likely outcome of reinstating these rules: “The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 500,000 to one million people will lose access to food stamps this year, citing the experience in states where work requirements already returned.”
This is the human cost of all of those years of right-wing rhetoric about fairy tale “welfare queens” ripping off the system. That rhetoric was used only for momentary political gain. But it engendered a deep belief in certain parts of the public that even food is too gracious of a gift for our poorest citizens. So now, hundreds of thousands of people will go hungry, so that some other, smaller number of better-off people can believe that they are not being ripped off by people they do not know and will never see.