Georgia has been requiring its citizens under welfare to work in exchange for food stamps over the past year. The ultimatum of requiring work to get benefits applies to able-bodied individuals without children and has affected some 12,000 people in 21 counties including those in metro Atlanta in the latest round.
State officials announced that the policy will be expanded to cover all 159 counties by 2019, with another 60 set to start the work requirements next year. Director of state Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) Bobby Cagle has said: “The greater good is people being employed, being productive and contributing to the state.”
Republican state Rep. Greg Morris agrees with Cagle and said the significant decrease in food stamps recipients shows the mandate is working. He believes that the problem with the old practice of merely giving out food stamps have encouraged recipients to become complacent, if not lazy, about finding a job.
Morris said that: “This is about protecting taxpayer dollars from abuse, and taking people off the cycle of dependency.” Morris even described receiving food stamps as “entitlements.”
Nearly 1.6 million Georgians receive food stamps, with the budget coming from federal dollars, but the program is being handled by DFCS. Since the work requirement has been set in place, the number of food stamp recipients deemed able-bodied and without children in Georgia has dropped from 111,000 to 89,500 in just a year’s time. Such translates to an uncommon reduction of 21, 500 people or 19 percent.
The issue of Georgia requiring its residents receiving food stamps to work in exchange for the continuation of such benefit has been a subject of debate between people of different political beliefs. People on the political right view the work requirement as a push for those who languish on public benefits.
Those on the left believe, on the contrary, that many people who the state deems able-bodied are not capable of holding a job due to physical or mental limitations. They also worry that said people will “suffer” without the state assistance.
Conservatives nationally push for more welfare-to-work initiatives. Left-wing advocates say, on the other hand, that denying food, which one of the most basic needs, is cruel. They also point to problems in the state’s classification of who are able-bodied or not.
The state acknowledged the initial problems encountered by their system in classifying who is able-bodied but said they are working on such issues including requiring their staff to undergo additional training.