Debt Ceiling Deal Includes New Work Requirements for Food Stamps (2023)

Politics|Debt Ceiling Deal Includes New Work Requirements for Food Stamps


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(Video) Debt ceiling deal includes new work requirements for SNAP recipients in Oregon

The agreement will place additional work requirements on older Americans to receive food assistance, but will remove those barriers for veterans and homeless adults.

Debt Ceiling Deal Includes New Work Requirements for Food Stamps (1)

By Linda Qiu

(Video) US debt ceiling legislation could impact SNAP food benefits recipients

Reporting from Washington

One of the most contentious issues surrounding talks over raising the debt limit has been whether the Biden administration would agree to stricter work requirements for people seeking food stamps and other safety net assistance.

The deal reached this weekend includes something of a compromise: It increases work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and cash welfare but does not alter requirements for Medicaid. It also expands food stamp access for veterans, homeless people and young adults transitioning out of the foster care system.

Whether that agreement will pass muster with progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans remains to be seen.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy is championing inclusion of work requirements as a win, but more conservative members have criticized the compromise as not going far enough. Representative Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, called the work requirements “weak” while Representative Dan Bishop, Republican of North Carolina, characterized the deal as a “betrayal.”

Biden administration officials have highlighted the expanded access for veterans as a victory. But liberal Democrats and activists for the poor are decrying the changes as onerous and counterproductive, pointing to research showing that existing requirements have little impact on employment.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, called the work requirement provisions “absolutely terrible policy” on CNN on Sunday, and said she would need to examine the text of the agreement more closely before deciding whether to vote for passage.

Asked on Monday about the concerns raised by Ms. Jayapal and other progressive Democrats, President Biden said he had not “had a chance to speak to her yet” but implored critics to “talk to me.”

It is unclear how the modifications would affect the overall number of food stamp beneficiaries or how much money, if any, it would save the federal government. The White House has said the changes will not significantly alter the number of people subject to requirements, suggesting a muted impact on government spending.

As part of the agreement, so-called able-bodied adults who are 54 and younger and do not have children must work or participate in a training program for at least 80 hours a month to receive food stamps for extended periods of time. Otherwise, they can receive benefits for only three months over a three-year period. Current work requirements apply to adults ages 49 and younger.

The agreement also exempted veterans, homeless people and young adults transitioning from foster care from those work requirements. Under current law, only those unable to work because of a physical or mental disability or pregnancy are exempt.

The debt ceiling deal also requires the Agriculture Department to make public the applications that states submit to waive work requirements for areas with high unemployment, and reduces the share of people a state can exempt to 8 percent of total beneficiaries from 12 percent.

Anti-poverty advocates praised the additional exemptions but lamented the expansion of work restrictions as well as the decision to tie safety net programs to the need to raise the nation’s debt limit.

“Making improvements for some groups is positive, but it doesn’t justify putting harmful requirements that are going to hurt older adults in place, ” said Sharon Parrott, the president of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Avoiding a debt limit default will spare the country from an economic catastrophe, but it is simply wrong that the compromise agreement forces older Americans with low incomes to pay such a heavy price,” Eric Mitchell, the executive director of the nonprofit group Alliance to End Hunger, said in a statement. He said the expansion of work requirements “will cause more older Americans to needlessly suffer from hunger and poverty.”

(Video) Tentative debt ceiling deal could increase requirements for SNAP recipients

About 42.5 million people received SNAP benefits in February, compared with about 36.9 million in February 2020, the month before the Covid-19 outbreak in the United States. Food stamp recipients receive an estimated $169 in monthly benefits on average, according to the Agriculture Department, which administers the program.

Increasing the age for work requirements will likely reduce the number of beneficiaries. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that more stringent changes proposed in a House Republican bill in April — which would have also increased the age limit to 55 and further restricted state waivers without any new exemptions — would have pushed about 275,000 people off food stamps and reduced benefits for another 19,000 people.

But the new exemptions may also add people to food stamp rolls. A 2021 study from the Urban Institute estimated that adults subject to the work requirements were more likely to be homeless than other SNAP beneficiaries. Waiving work requirements could also increase the number of veterans who use food stamps from the current level of 1.1 million.

The White House has estimated those exemptions would likely offset the increased age, leaving the number of adults subject to the work requirements unchanged.

But Ms. Parrott argued that focusing the net impact of the agreement on SNAP participation ignores the harm the requirements will have on older adults, calling such calculations a “low bar” for lawmakers to clear.

“The reality is that this is hurting a group of people that is very disadvantaged, and it isn’t as though we had to do that in order to do the more positive policies,” she said.

It is also unclear just how much of a budgetary impact these changes will have. The C.B.O. had estimated that the more restrictive changes to food stamps in the House Republican bill would have reduced federal deficits by about $11 billion over a decade. The agreement’s modifications will likely make a smaller dent in deficits.

In addition to changes to food stamps, the debt ceiling deal modifies work requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides cash assistance to households with children.

To receive federal funding for the program under current law, states must prove that a certain percentage of adults in families receiving benefits are working, attending work training or participating in other approved “work activities.”


The agreement changes how states calculate those work participation rates and will make it more difficult for states to exempt families from the requirements, said Katherine Hempstead, a senior policy adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic organization. But the agreement also created a small pilot program for states to test alternative models.

“The research is clear on the ineffectiveness of work requirements and the hardships they cause for people that depend on the social safety net,” Ms. Hempstead said, adding that nonetheless, “this agreement avoids some of the worst outcomes.”

Linda Qiu is a fact-check reporter, based in Washington. She came to The Times in 2017 from the fact-checking service PolitiFact. @ylindaqiu

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(Video) Top GOP Negotiator Touts New Work Requirements For Food Stamps In Biden-McCarthy Debt Ceiling Deal


What was the debt ceiling deal? ›

Congress has approved a deal to raise the government's borrowing limit and prevent a potentially catastrophic default on US debt repayments. The agreement passed the Senate on Thursday, a day after it passed the House of Representatives.

What is the new US debt ceiling? ›

The deal to suspend the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling until January 2025 holds non-defense discretionary spending largely flat this year, with a 1% increase in fiscal 2024. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates this would result in $1.3 trillion in savings over a decade.

Who won the debt ceiling deal? ›

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

McCarthy is perhaps the biggest political winner out of the debt-ceiling fight, overcoming discontent from the right flank of his party and squeezing spending concessions out of the White House after Biden initially refused to negotiate over the debt ceiling.

Has the debt ceiling bill been passed? ›

The final agreement, passed by the House on Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday, suspends the debt limit until 2025 – after the next presidential election – and restricts government spending.

Did President Biden signed the debt ceiling bill? ›

WASHINGTON (AP) — With just two days to spare, President Joe Biden signed legislation on Saturday that lifts the nation's debt ceiling, averting an unprecedented default on the federal government's debt.

Has the US ever exceeded the debt ceiling? ›

The U.S. has never reached the point of default where the Treasury was incapable of paying U.S. debt obligations, though it has been close on several occasions. The only exception was during the War of 1812 when parts of Washington D.C. including the Treasury were burned.

Does the United States have a debt ceiling? ›

What is the debt ceiling? Created by Congress in 1917, the debt limit, or ceiling, sets the maximum amount of outstanding federal debt the U.S. government can incur. In January 2023, the total national debt and the debt ceiling both stood at $31.4 trillion.

Did Senate pass debt ceiling? ›

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement on the passage of the debt ceiling agreement, saying that “an important step toward fiscal sanity will finally become law.” The measure passed the House by a wide margin – 314 to 117 – on Wednesday.

Did the Senate vote on the debt ceiling bill? ›

The Senate voted late Thursday on a bill to suspend the country's debt limit through January 1, 2025 following weeks of contentious negotiations on the legislative deal between the White House and Republicans.

Who owns the most US government debt? ›

The Federal Reserve, which purchases and sells Treasury securities as a means to influence federal interest rates and the nation's money supply, is the largest holder of such debt.

Is Social Security affected by debt ceiling? ›

As debt ceiling negotiations continue, some officials are warning Social Security checks may be affected. Benefit checks may be delayed, which would cause financial hardship for individuals and families who rely on that money. Still, some policy experts say it is unlikely the standoff would come to that point.

Who does the United States owe the most debt to? ›

In total, other territories hold about $7.4 trillion in U.S. debt. Japan owns the most at $1.1 trillion, followed by China, with $859 billion, and the United Kingdom at $668 billion.

What happens if US debt gets too high? ›

Rising debt means fewer economic opportunities for Americans. Rising debt reduces business investment and slows economic growth. It also increases expectations of higher rates of inflation and erosion of confidence in the U.S. dollar.

Which US state has the most debt? ›


Has the US ever been debt free? ›

As a result, the U.S. actually did become debt free, for the first and only time, at the beginning of 1835 and stayed that way until 1837. It remains the only time that a major country was without debt. Jackson and his followers believed that freedom from debt was the linchpin in establishing a free republic.

How much of the US population is debt free? ›

Fewer than one quarter of American households live debt-free. Learning ways to tackle debt can help you get a handle on your finances.

How high is the US national debt? ›

Much of the debt -- $24.6 trillion -- is held by the public in the form of financial securities issued by the Treasury Department.

When was the US debt the highest? ›

Between 1980 and 1990, the debt more than tripled. The debt shrank briefly after the end of the Cold War, but by the end of FY 2008, the gross national debt had reached $10.3 trillion, about 10 times its 1980 level.

How high is the US debt? ›

Of the nearly $31.46 trillion or so in public debt, about $73.5 billion is not subject to the statutory debt limit; most of that represents the accounting treatment of certain Treasury securities sold at a discount to their face value ($68.2 billion) and debt held by the Federal Financing Bank ($4.8 billion).


1. Work Requirements For SNAP And TANF Programs In Debt Limit Deal: GOP Leaders
(Forbes Breaking News)
2. Food stamps: How debt ceiling agreement will affect those on SNAP benefits
(The Washington Examiner)
3. 'I Got In Line For Food Stamps': GOP Rep Talks Work Requirements In Biden-McCarthy Debt Limit Bill
(Forbes Breaking News)
4. GOP debt limit plan cuts SNAP benefits. How that affects Americans. | JUST THE FAQS
5. Debt Deal Raises Military Spending & OKs WV Pipeline While Introducing Work Rules for Food Stamps
(Democracy Now!)
6. Chicago senior feels the pinch of reduced SNAP benefits
(CBS Chicago)


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