WASHINGTON – Today, Ranking Member of the Nutrition, Foreign Agriculture, and Horticulture Subcommittee, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) released the following statement after Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said work requirements for public assistance programs like Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) are nonnegotiable in debt ceiling talks, laying out one of his “red lines” ahead of negotiations with President Biden:

“The cuts to SNAP put forth by McCarthy are a red line for me as well. 42 Million Americans rely on SNAP, and the vast majority of SNAP participants who can work, already do work. In fact, in 89% of SNAP households with children and at least one non-disabled adult, at least one member of the household worked in the year prior to or after receiving SNAP. Imposing stringent work requirements like the proposals put forth by Speaker McCarthy will create unnecessary hunger cliffs for millions of people, including veterans, chronically unhoused, and those struggling with underlying mental and physical health problems – causing them to lose the modest benefits they need to survive. Vulnerable families should not be used as bargaining chips to further an extremist agenda.

Today McCarthy has made it clear the values of the Republican party are inconsistent with the values of the American people. According to the Center for American Progress (CAP) 61 percent of respondents oppose work requirements for non-elderly adults on Medicaid. Further, work requirements for the SNAP already exist for able-bodied participants aged 18-49. Expanding work requirements will not guarantee the availability of work hours for underemployed individuals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) more than 4.1 million workers in the U.S. were working part-time jobs because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to secure full-time employment.

Further, millions of Americans who maintain full-time jobs (35 hours or more) still live below the poverty level and rely on federal benefit programs like SNAP and Medicaid to make ends meet. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), in 2018, over 50% of Adult SNAP recipients worked at least 35 hours per week for at least 50 weeks out of the year, and 48% of adult Medicaid enrollees worked at least 35 hours per week. It is a gross mischaracterization to assume the individuals who rely on government assistance are uninterested in work.

The proposed plan would also eliminate the existing ability of states to make local decisions to grant exemptions from work requirements for SNAP beneficiaries.

First, my Republican colleagues threatened Social Security benefits for older Americans. Now they have launched attacks on the most vulnerable who rely on SNAP for food- 7.1% of veterans, 23% of the elderly and disabled, and 44% of children. We must take action on the federal deficit and protect the full faith and credit of the United States, however, this cannot be done by taking food out of the mouths of the most vulnerable. I will continue to work to ensure more families have access to food, not less.”