N.J. Senate agrees to Christie compromise on food stamps

The Senate will have to vote on the compromise again, and the Assembly must also approve the amended bill.

Under the compromise, the state Human Services commissioner must examine city and county joblessness data, and then take action when the rates are deemed too high.

In those cases, the state would ask the federal government to set aside the requirement that unemployed people in these communities must work in order to receive food stamps, also known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The bill (S993) originally passed by the Legislature would have required the commissioner to request the reprieve for specific cities if unemployment rates locally spiked to 7.6 percent.

In his message accompanying the veto, Christie said "While I am committed to supporting the SNAP program and ensuring that those individuals in need of benefits receive them, our goal as a State should be to find ways to fulfill the ultimate objective of the work requirement — to assist individuals in achieving self-sufficiency."

People in every state are required to work at least 20 hours a week to receive subsidized food aid under SNAP. But because of the struggling economy, since 2009 the Obama administration has allowed "able-bodied adults" between the ages of 18 and 49 without dependents to qualify for the aid without a time limit despite not fulfilling the work requirement.

The nationwide work waiver ended in December because the unemployment rate dropped so low, and the governor's office announced it would not apply for a new program that would waive the work requirement in cities and counties with high unemployment.

State Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) said Monday that while he would have preferred the Legislature's method, he's been assured the governor's administration is working hard to create "pathways" to employment.

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