Oklahoma House approves bill making changes in food stamp program

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: March 12, 2013
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Diana Tampkins may be among the majority of Oklahomans who won't be affected by a proposed law that would require able-bodied Oklahomans with no dependents to perform at least 20 hours of work activities to receive federal food stamps.

Tampkins, 53, of Oklahoma City, is single and has no dependents. She said Monday she has received the minimum $200 monthly allotment of food stamps in the past; she has been hurt on the job twice and is in the process of seeing doctors about whether she would be considered disabled because of earlier injuries to her right arm and leg.

She said she is undecided about House Bill 1909, which easily passed the House of Representatives on Monday after it was changed reducing the weekly work requirement from 35 to 20 hours. It now goes to the Senate.

“It depends on what all goes in there,” Tampkins said. “I would have to hear the final details of it. I just hope that they don't leave people to where they can't get anything to eat.”

HB 1909 passed 86-11. It now goes to the Senate.

HB 1909 would require people ages 18 to 50 who are not disabled or raising a child to perform at least 20 hours of work activities as a condition of receiving federal food benefits.

Activities would include job seeking and career training, volunteer work and/or education directly related to employment opportunities.

Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, said the change would affect about 1,000 food benefit recipients. About 617,000 Oklahomans are receiving federal food benefits; 56 percent are adults, Nelson said.

Currently, able-bodied individuals do not have to fulfill work requirements.

“It's time we encourage the value of personal responsibility,” said House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, the bill's author. “This measure will help able-bodied people break their addiction to government subsidies and let them focus on building a career as opposed to continually suffering under the wheel of poverty.”