More than 1.4 million Ohioans in nearly 700,000 households rely on federal food assistance. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s most effective anti-hunger program. But the House Farm Bill currently pending before Congress (H.R. 2) would cut food aid by more than $17 billion over 10 years and change SNAP in ways that would threaten the economic and physical security of women and families.
The House Farm Bill would make cuts to SNAP, which would take food away from struggling families – and make it even more difficult to find work. The bill would impose so-called “work requirements” despite SNAP already requiring participants to register for work and accept a position if offered, with certain exemptions. Able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) under age 50 face special work requirements and can only receive benefits for three months out of every three years unless they are working 20 hours per week. The Farm Bill would go even further by mandating work for all ABAWDs under age 60, by requiring participants to prove every month that they worked for 20 hours per week or qualified for an exemption, and by increasing the work requirement to 25 hours per week beginning in 2026. These stricter barriers would be especially problematic for women, who are more likely to hold low-wage, part-time and informal jobs. The unpredictable nature of these jobs means that women would face systemic barriers to meeting the proposed work requirements and would be at greater risk of losing vital food assistance.
These harsher requirements would result in deep cuts to SNAP access, which would also have troubling consequences for families. Women are the majority of caregivers—and the low-wage jobs in which they are concentrated usually offer minimal workplace flexibility to fulfill caregiving responsibilities. These new, more strict barriers would exacerbate the conflict between providing care and securing material needs that too many women already face. And no matter where women are forced to sacrifice, their families suffer. While SNAP currently exempts parents with children under age six from the general work requirement, two-thirds of children receiving SNAP benefits are school-aged and parents still need to arrange care for older children after school, during vacations, and when they need medical attention. Therefore, this exemption is insufficient to mitigate harmful changes in the pending legislation.
The Farm Bill would require single parents to participate in the federal child support enforcement program. Currently, states can choose whether SNAP recipients must participate in this enforcement program and only a few have mandated it. Adopting this requirement at the national level would prevent women from making their own decisions about their safety and that of their families. Single parents, most of whom are mothers, often have good reasons for deciding not to engage with child support enforcement officials: they may wish to avoid jeopardizing relationships with the noncustodial parent, or incurring risk if there is a history of domestic violence. No single parent should feel compelled to choose between food assistance and physical security.
And, ultimately, the foundation of the plan is fundamentally flawed as so-called “work requirements” have been shown to be unsuccessful in achieving a greater participation in the workforce or lifting participants out of poverty. Plain and simple, work requirements don’t work. There have been studies into work requirements implemented on other safety net programs, which demonstrate their lack of effectiveness in actually helping people maintain long-term employment. The research shows that any increases of employment were relatively small and tended to fade after time. Further, the work requirements failed to make advances in reducing poverty among participants. In fact, the studies showed that the majority of the individuals taking part in the program remained in poverty, and some even become poorer. Work requirements hurt more than they help. Placing additional bureaucratic barriers to accessing SNAP – or cutting off food assistance entirely – is the wrong strategy to promote healthy families, especially for women and their children who would be disproportionately affected by the proposal.
The Farm Bill is bad for women—and the consequences don’t stop there. The proposed changes to SNAP would make too many women face harmful trade-offs in order to meet a basic human need: having enough to eat. And when women face impossible decisions, the livelihood and wellbeing of their families hang in the balance.