Second Harvest speaks out against proposed Farm Bill

Holly Viers • Aug 21, 2018 at 7:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee has expressed its disapproval of a proposed bill, which would impose stricter work requirements for those who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

In a press release sent out Tuesday morning, the food bank spoke out against the version of the Farm Bill proposed by the House of Representatives, stating that it “may create obstacles for those in our area with food insecurities to receive needed resources.”

What’s proposed?

Josie Russell, community relations manager for Second Harvest, said the bill would require adults who are physically and mentally able to work to either secure a job or participate in training programs.

Specifically, individuals would be required to work 20 hours a week, increasing to 25 hours a week in 2026, or register for a mandated state employment and training program if currently not enrolled or if unemployed.

Some of the other provisions of the bill are detailed below:

• Individuals with children above the age of 5 and below the age of 12 for whom childcare is not available would be exempt from the work requirements.

• The bill would allow one month for initial compliance with the work requirements. Inability to meet requirements results in a mandated 12-month ineligibility period and a 36-month ineligibility period for subsequent violations unless an individual obtains employment sufficient to meet the hourly requirement or is otherwise exempt.

• Establishes a two-year transition period for state implementation before enforcement of the updated work requirement rules and disqualifications.

What does Second Harvest believe?

Second Harvest believes states should be allowed to continue to determine what works best for their residents, rather than implementing the guidelines mentioned above.

“Specifically changing the discretion of states to determine the amount of time a person is allowed to find a job to one month with a mandated 12-month ineligibility requirement for benefits is particularly difficult for some areas of the country,” the press release states, “especially rural areas like ours where reliable transportation may be a significant factor to finding employment or in areas with insufficient jobs.”

How might the bill affect Second Harvest?

“It’s just going to put additional stress, potentially, on our resources,” Russell said. “If we have people who, in the past, have been receiving SNAP benefits and then they get them cut because of this work requirement, then ... it may stretch out resources even more because we may be serving folks that we hadn’t had to serve in the past because they had been receiving enough SNAP benefits.”

How can people take action?

Russell encourages citizens to reach out to their elected representatives and ask them to vote no on this version of the Farm Bill.

If the bill passes as written and Second Harvest begins serving more people as a result, Russell said the food bank would likely be in need of more community donations.

“We’re just hoping that the new Farm Bill won’t make it more difficult for people to receive and maintain their level of SNAP benefits,” Russell said.