Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the SNAP Reform and Upward Mobility Act (SRUMA), a bold piece of legislation aimed at strengthening work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and closing loopholes that have contributed to its rapid expansion. The number of SNAP beneficiaries has grown from 17.1 million in 2000 to 41.1 million in 2022, while the cost of providing benefits has risen from $17 billion to $119 billion. Meanwhile, SNAP continues to experience fraud and abuse that undermines the program’s integrity.
SNAP was designed to provide temporary relief to vulnerable individuals facing difficult times. Work requirements, which are widely supported by the American public, serve as a commonsense measure to preserve the program for future beneficiaries. Strengthening these requirements will encourage SNAP recipients to seek employment, which is associated with improved mental health and a reduction in poverty cycles.
Senator Lee said, “The SNAP Reform and Upward Mobility Act represents a significant stride in fortifying work requirements and enhancing the overall integrity of the SNAP program. By tackling issues of fraud, abuse, and existing loopholes, this legislation aims to maintain the availability of SNAP for those in need and foster an environment that promotes self-sufficiency and opportunities for upward mobility. Through these reforms, we seek to empower individuals to transition from temporary assistance to long-term independence and financial stability.”
Key provisions of SRUMA include:
- Establishing a temporary bipartisan commission within the Census Bureau to improve income and poverty measurement, allocating $1 million for its operation.
- Expanding general work requirements to individuals ages 16-64, and hour-based work requirements to individuals ages 18-64 with dependents over six years old.
- Closing the geographic waiver loophole and reducing the percentage of the SNAP caseload that states can exempt from work requirements from 15% to 5%.
- Allowing married individuals with children to fulfill hour-based work requirements jointly and mandating USDA reports on SNAP Employment and Training Program outcomes.
- Requiring a 5% state match in SNAP benefits, increasing by 5% each year until a 50% match is reached, incentivizing states to conduct greater oversight.
- Closing the “broad-based categorical eligibility” loophole in SNAP and requiring recipients to cooperate with fraud investigations.
- Instituting penalties for unauthorized uses of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards and enhancing fraud prevention measures for food retailers.
- Reinstating the publication of annual SNAP State Activity Reports and allowing states to retain 50% of funds collected from intentional program violations for fraud prevention efforts.
Akash Chougule, Vice President, Americans for Prosperity said, “We applaud Senator Lee for his efforts to ensure that our welfare programs are truly designed to lift people up toward a better life. All Americans deserve the dignity of earned success, and empowering Americans to climb the ladder of opportunity through work helps do so. We look forward to working with Sen. Lee and others to reform our welfare system that continues to trap too many of our fellow Americans in a cycle of dependency that they do not want to be in and is not meeting their needs.”
Tarren Bragdon, president and CEO of the Foundation for Government Accountability said, “Simply put, work requirements work. At a time when we have two open jobs for every person looking for one, the federal government must do what it can to address the labor crisis. By strengthening work requirements for our federal food stamp program, Sen. Lee’s SNAP Reform and Upward Mobility Act will protect valuable resources for the truly needy while helping states get Americans off the sidelines to experience the dignity of work.”
Ryan Walker, Vice President of Government Relations, Heritage Action said, “Like all government programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) should incentivize work, not discourage it, as working is the most effective way for individuals to start down a pathway to success and fulfillment. Getting more individuals into the workforce will reduce poverty, long-term government dependence, and social isolation. Senator Lee’s SNAP Reform and Upward Mobility Act makes important changes to the SNAP program that will encourage recipients to find work, which will provide them with the skills necessary for long-term success and independence.”