The Slatest

A Million People Are About to Lose Food Stamps Because of Kasich-Clinton Welfare Reform

Bill Clinton and then-Ohio Rep. John Kasich after the State of the Union address on Jan. 27, 2000.


For Bernie Sanders– and Black Lives Matter–related reasons, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination is playing up her credentials as a progressive. On the Republican side, John Kasich is making a long-shot bet that he can win by being the one GOP candidate who talks about things like empathy and generosity rather than anger, guns, and death. In other words, Clinton and Kasich are both running to the left. But because of a quirk of timing, more than 1 million Americans are about to lose Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food stamp benefits because of a conservative reform bill that both Kasich and Clinton backed two decades ago. From the AP:

More than 1 million low-income residents in 21 states could soon lose their government food stamps if they fail to meet work requirements that began kicking in this month … The provision applies to able-bodied adults ages 18 through 49 who have no children or other dependents in their home. It requires them to work, volunteer or attend education or job-training courses at least 80 hours a month to receive food aid. If they don’t, their benefits are cut off after three months.

The requirement in question—which can be waived during times of high unemployment but is kicking in now because waivers given out during the post-2008 recession are expiring—was set by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, aka the “welfare reform” bill. The bill was introduced in Congress by Kasich and signed by Bill Clinton; Hillary Clinton has long described it as a significant achievement. The New York Times reported in 2008 that Clinton had “expressed no misgivings about the 1996 legislation” during an interview in which she said welfare should be “a temporary way station for people who [need] immediate assistance.”