Taking away someone’s food does not help them get a job. On the contrary, it causes hunger and hinders their ability to live a healthy and productive life. We at the Chicago Jobs Council staunchly oppose attaching work requirements to food, housing, or other critical types of public assistance. As such, we are troubled to hear about the finalization of a federal rule change to expand the time-limit on food assistance for Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs).
This policy change will have a huge impact on the State of Illinois, where over 100,000 people could be newly subject to strict federal work requirements. The change will require people considered “ABAWDs” to work or participate in workforce services for 80 hours per month or lose their SNAP benefits.
The Jobs Council has decades of experience in the field of workforce development. We know without a doubt that forced hunger and punishments do not help job seekers overcome barriers to employment and self-sufficiency. We also know what does work: the support of evidence-based workforce development programming and supportive services.
Beyond the impacts on individuals and their families, slashing the food budgets of the poorest Americans will also reduce spending in local economies. SNAP dollars make their way back into our local economies, and cutting it back will impact the health of individual people as well as the communities in which they live and buy food.
Rather than enact counterproductive and punitive policies, we urge the federal administration to collaborate with workforce development system leaders and stakeholders to strengthen the SNAP Employment and Training program and other important workforce investments.
The Chicago Jobs Council will be working closely with on-the-ground service providers, systems leaders, and other advocates to minimize the harm associated with this dangerous policy. But without a swift reversal, things are about to get harder for job seekers and workers in Illinois and the organizations that work alongside them.