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Richmond, KY
4:45 pm, April 16, 2024
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Food stamp loopholes are costing Kentucky’s economy

Food stamp loopholes are costing Kentucky’s economy

Guest Editorial By Representative Wade Williams

Why is the commonwealth simultaneously facing a worker shortage and rising unemployment? Two widely abused loopholes are partly to blame. I’ve introduced a bill, HB 367, to close these loopholes for good, because if Kentuckians don’t work, Kentucky doesn’t work.

One loophole is called broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE). In short, the BBCE loophole allows someone to qualify for food stamps even when they have significant available assets or an income well above the poverty level. It significantly raises the income limit and totally eliminates the federal asset test.

The second loophole is a waiver of the program’s basic work requirement for able-bodied adults. Federal law requires able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 52 years of age with no dependents to work part time, train for a job, or volunteer. The Biden administration approved a Kentucky waiver that eliminates this work requirement for food stamps, as well as states like California and New York.

With more jobs open than people looking for work, there is absolutely no reason to waive the work requirement in food stamps for able-bodied adults. The legislature knew this was an issue and passed legislation requiring legislative approval of waiver requests. However, the Beshear administration worked with the Biden administration to continue waiving the work requirement in parts of the state.

These loopholes should concern Kentuckians for two reasons. First, when ineligible individuals are enrolled in food stamps, resources are siphoned away from the truly needy. Second, loopholes and barriers that keep Kentuckians out of the workforce are worsening our labor shortage and stifling economic growth. Kentucky’s worker shortage is no secret. There are 74 available workers for every hundred open jobs—more jobs available than people looking for work. Yet our unemployment rate continues to rise.

Allowing people to enroll in food stamps with no consideration of their assets also opens the door to fraud and abuse — and it’s the truly needy of Kentucky who suffer because of it.

HB367 would close these loopholes by requiring every food stamp recipient to comply with the federal asset and income limits. The federal asset limit for most households is $2,750 and the income limit for a family of four is $39,000. This would preserve resources for the truly needy, keep millionaires off food stamps, and encourage able-bodied adults to return to work. If the limit doesn’t work, it should be changed at the federal level.

That’s the way our welfare system is intended to work, and that’s the way it should work.

Other states have already closed these loopholes. Many, including Florida, Missouri, Kansas, North Carolina, and Oklahoma, prohibit food stamp waivers. And, closing the BBCE loophole brings us in line with Tennessee, Mississippi, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, and others. It’s also a reform that Kentuckians support. A recent poll from the Center for Excellence in Polling found that 80% of likely Kentucky voters support checking food stamp applicants’ financial assets to ensure they’re truly eligible.  

Kentucky must make sure those who are enrolled in food stamps are eligible and that able-bodied adults are getting back to work.

Representative Wade Williams serves the state’s 4th House District, which includes all of Hopkins County. His measure ,HB 367 approved by the House Families and Children Committee on Thursday, February 15 and now goes to the full House for consideration.

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