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Oklahoma House approves bill making changes in food stamp program

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: March 12, 2013
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Shannon's amendment reinstates a 1996 federal requirement that able-bodied persons without dependents must work at least 20 hours a week or participate in a work program to be eligible to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

In 2009, the federal government allowed states to seek a waiver from that requirement.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services, which administers the program, sought and was granted a waiver.

“It's time to get back to this 20-hour work requirement,” Nelson said.

An able-bodied adult without dependents with no income could receive up to $50 a week, or $7.15 a day, in SNAP benefits, according to the DHS.

Paper food stamps were replaced years ago with a debit card.

Are jobs available?

Many of the 29 Democrats in the House who originally opposed Shannon's bill voted for the measure because the requirement reverted back to the 1996 law.

“We don't want to punish people that are doing their best,” said Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City. “Let's not hurt the people that need it most.”

House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, asked, “Are you confident that there are the jobs available for this segment of the population to get back to work?”

Nelson said Oklahoma's unemployment numbers are among the lowest in the country.

“Can everybody find a job? I don't know,” he said. “But what we don't want to do and what the people of Oklahoma don't want to be doing is subsidizing people that are single and able-bodied when our economy in Oklahoma is doing very well.”