TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), has put forth new legislation modifying the requirements to receive federal benefits for welfare and food stamps. The bill, five pages long and titled the “Let’s Get to Work Act of 2022” makes changes to provisions of both the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2021.

Together, the changes proposed in Scott’s legislation would amend eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP. Scott proposes adding work requirements for recipients who are able-bodied and do not have dependents, as well as applying those same requirements to other public programs from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Currently, due to pandemic legislation, the age requirements for able-bodied adults to receive benefits for SNAP even if they do not have dependents, permits those aged 50 or older to apply.

The FFCRA stipulated that until the Health and Human Services public health emergency declaration is lifted for the COVID-19 pandemic, “eligibility for supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits shall not be limited” by the Food and Nutrition Act’s section 6(o)(2), “unless an individual does not comply with the requirements” for programs offered by state agencies administering the benefits.

Before the pandemic, FNA’s provisions limited eligibility with a work requirement. Those applying for benefits could not have received SNAP funds as a member of another household in the three years before applying on their own, as well as being ineligible if they had received benefits for three or more months in that time frame while not working at least 20 hours per week. Applicants also had to be either 60-years-old, or have dependents who were in their care.

Dependents included children and incapacitated individuals, “bona fide students” in a school, a training program, or in higher education, “at least half the time,” or be a participant in a drug addiction, alcoholic treatment, or rehabilitation program. For those 16 to 18 years of age who are not heads of a household are required to be attending school and employed half-time.

When COVID hit, the work requirements and age requirements changed.

Applicant age requirements were lowered from 60 to 50, and work requirements were waived as the economy shrank due to the challenges of COVID-19.

Scott’s proposed legislation, in his own words, would make multiple changes to eligibility going forward:

  • End the current suspension of SNAP’s work requirements for Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents (ABAWDs) put in place during COVID-19.
  • Expand SNAP work requirements to able-bodied adults aged 50-59 and to parents of children over 6 years old, with the exception of parents with children under the age of 6 and persons who care for incapacitated individuals.
  • Eliminate “no-good-cause” exemptions from the SNAP ABAWD work requirement that allows states to circumvent SNAP work requirements.
  • Establish work requirements for Public Housing by applying these same SNAP work requirements to HUD Public Housing and Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (voucher) programs.
  • Make improvements to work requirements for federal benefits by addressing the marriage penalty and increasing the grace period for parents:
    • To address the marriage penalty, the bill exempts one spouse from the work requirement if the other fulfills it. This is accomplished by adding to the list of exempted individuals a married person who is responsible for a dependent individual and who resides in the household with a spouse in compliance with all applicable work requirements.
    • The bill increases the “grace window” for those parents with dependents who fail to meet the work requirement from 3 months in a 3-year window to 6 months in a 3-year period to account for the added complexities in these households.

The impact of the senator’s legislation on Florida has the potential to affect millions of residents. Data from the DCF reported that there were 39,692 clients receiving benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs in the state. Putting it in terms of families, DCF reported 25,574 families received benefits from TANF in May.

TANF is welfare assistance, following the program’s rebranding from the previous name, Aid to Families with Dependent Children. The program was changed in 1996 in an appropriations law signed by former President Bill Clinton. The changes included switching administration of the program from the federal government to the states, making TANF and food stamps managed by the DCF.

For food stamps, more than 2.8 million Floridians received assistance in May, as “food stamp clients.”

While 15.9% lower than May 2021, the number of beneficiaries in the Sunshine State increased by 0.4% month-over-month, according to DCF’s data.

Scott announced his ideas and the proposed legislation in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on June 20, calling it his “plan to get Americans back to work.”

The senator thanked his mother for instilling “the value of hard work” in himself and his siblings, who “grew up poor, lived in public housing.” While the senator grew up with public assistance, he joined the U.S. Navy, using the GI Bill to go to college before getting a law degree and entering the business world, ultimately operating multiple health systems in Florida and around the United States.

The senator became one of the wealthiest Americans to serve in U.S Congress, with an estimated net worth north of $200 million, as of December, according to Business Insider.

In a statement published by the senator’s office, he said his proposal is in reaction to how the Democratic Party has allegedly increased how much Americans rely on the government instead of working for themselves.

“For too long, the Left has waged a war on work. That needs to end today. Policies put in place during the pandemic to pay people more to sit at home than go back to work are the radical Left’s latest and boldest move to boost government dependency. If we let it go on, it will ruin our country,” Scott wrote. “Americans know that a job is the very best thing for a family. A job creates income, independence and security – it’s the foundation of the American Dream. But living your dreams in this country takes work and I know that firsthand.”