Fact Sheet: Do Work Requirements in Public Programs Work?

May 1, 2017

Legislators frequently propose that people who receive safety net benefits such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) or Medicaid be required to do paid or unpaid work in exchange. The most recent proposals include stricter work requirements for SNAP participants and introducing requirements for people who receive Medicaid or housing assistance. 

Bread for the World has always argued that work is the surest way out of poverty. It is a cornerstone of our society that all adults who can work, should work. But do work requirements lead to the kind of jobs that pay enough to lift people out of poverty?

So far, the most successful work programs have been voluntary programs that combine employment and education. There is little data, because most such programs have been small, underfunded, and not followed up with careful evaluation. 

Work requirements may be acceptable, but only if serious penalties apply only to people who are offered jobs and refuse them without a valid reason.

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