CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates has passed legislation requiring able-bodied adults without children to work, undergo training or volunteer to be eligible for food stamps.

The House approved HB 4001 by a vote of 78-19 Tuesday following an impassioned debate where opponents said the bill was cold-hearted and would take food away from the needy.

Bill supporters pointed out that the bill applies the work, volunteer or training requirements to a narrow population of adults who are simply avoiding work.

“We’re talking about able bodied persons who actually just choose not to work,” said Delegate Tom Fast (R-Fayette), who sponsored the bill.

The work requirement would apply to those between 18-50 years of age, who are not disabled, do not have dependents, are not pregnant or responsible for the care of a minor child. Veterans are also excluded from the requirement.

Individuals would be required to work, volunteer or undergo training for 20 hours a week to qualify for SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Those who refuse would be limited  to three months of benefits over three years.

Delegate Larry Rowe (D-Kanawha) charged in a floor speech that the bill is punitive. “It’s a terrible bill. It’s a bill that will take food out of the mouths of people.”

The work requirement dates back to the federal welfare reform bill signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. However, the Obama Administration jettisoned the work requirements by providing waivers.

The bill the House passed Tuesday would eliminating the work waivers in all counties by October 1, 2021.

The bill also includes provisions aimed at cutting down on food stamp fraud by implementing a computer tracking database for recipients. The legislation now goes to the Senate.

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