It’s been 23 years since the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 became law.
This federal law requires able-bodied adults to get a stable job if they want to continue to get food stamp assistance from Uncle Sam, i.e. American taxpayers.
The law generally barred unemployed adults ages 18 to 49 who are not disabled or not raising minor children from receiving SNAP or food stamp benefits for more than three months in any three-year period without holding at least 20 hours of work a week or 80 hours in a month.
For more than two decades, the government of Guam – through the Gutierrez, Camacho and Calvo administrations – successfully received a federal waiver from this work requirement. Adults who were able to work didn’t have to and still could get food stamps if they met the income threshold.
Now, reality will sink in for many able-bodied adults on Guam who’ve gotten help from the food stamp program to survive.
On Oct. 1, less than three weeks from now, Guamanian adults who have relied on food stamps can no longer get an extension after three months of having received the benefit.
In April, the Guam attorney general’s office tried to join other states in trying to get an extension of the waiver from the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service. But the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services announced Tuesday that the waiver request was turned down.
For many adults living in poverty, this rule change may come as a major shock.
For GovGuam, the next step must include providing a wider safety net that will be meaningful. Instead of handouts, adults who need work must be properly trained for available jobs and must be helped to develop the skills and mindset to become self-sufficient.
It’s going to be a challenge for the program recipients and for GovGuam.
What’s certain is that GovGuam should have known this day would come.
In a few weeks, it will be a new reality for many.