Crawford County's state senator doesn't want a low-income food program detached from its work requirement.
Legislation seeking to make the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program work requirements voluntary was brought before members of the Senate Human Services Committee March 12.
"Work requirements serve the purpose of helping individuals improve upon skills, find employment and better their situation," said State Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon). "Making the SNAP Employment and Training Program voluntary is a dangerous precedent to start and encourages abuse of the system."
Senate Bill 1791 would make the SNAP Employment and Training Program voluntary in every county expect those where the Illinois Department of Human Services can show that there are sufficient program slots for at least the majority of the county's current non-exempt work registrants.
"We should call this what it is, a free ride on the dime of taxpayers," said Righter. "To allow for taxpayer funding to support and provide for able-bodied individuals who are voluntarily choosing not to pursue opportunities and self-sufficiency is unacceptable."
In Fiscal Year 2018, approximately 937,000 individuals were enrolled in Illinois' SNAP program with approximately $42 million going toward operation costs. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Illinois is tied with Kentucky for having the highest percentage of residents in the Midwest who receive SNAP benefits.
"The reality is, this legislation will have the unintended consequences of increasing enrollment in the SNAP program and adding to the tens-of-millions it takes to fund program operations," said Righter. "We should be focused on helping these individuals improve their situations and decrease the dependency on social welfare programs."