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Trump’s work for welfare executive order worries some in Washington

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SEATTLE -- President Donald Trump signed an executive order seeking to add and strengthen work requirements for those getting public assistance, but critics say it could have devastating consequences for some in Washington.

According to government data, 13 percent of Washington's population, or nearly 1 million people, get benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. It was formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. About half of these participants are already part of working families.

In Washington, one in every eight workers qualifies for SNAP because their jobs don't pay enough to keep them above the poverty line. It's how these families buy groceries and it's one area that could see increased work requirements under Trump's executive order.

As it currently stands, to get continued benefits under SNAP, able-bodied adults without children must work at least 20 hours per week. In a state that is driven by seasonal work, like agriculture and tourism, Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition's Claire Lane is worried there aren't enough employment opportunities to go around.

"There's all kinds of part-time work and seasonal work that drives the rest of our state economy, but it wouldn't necessarily be 20 or 30 hours a week every week year round," Lane said.

Trump's order gives various Cabinet secretaries 90 days to review the programs their agencies offer, and recommend possible changes to get people back to work. It's something both the administration and advocates can get behind: Encouraging people to work is a good thing.

But advocates say encouraging and requiring have different consequences, and requiring more work could push those over the edge who are using public assistance programs to meet basic needs

"In a state where our unemployment rate statewide is so low, those people who don't have jobs now, they have real barriers to employment," Lane said. "There's a skills gap; there's an education gap."

Along with SNAP, the Trump administration would also like to attach work requirements to Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

With Congress getting ready to release the draft of the next farm bill, work requirements for SNAP could extend to people up to age 65, instead of the current age range of 18 to 49. It could also require parents of children ages 12 and older to work to receive benefits.

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