You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

More will have to work to keep food stamps

Georgia plans to significantly expand the number of counties that require food stamp recipients with no children to find a job, extending the program from three to 24 counties across the state.

The extension will bring another 10,000 people under the work mandate, presenting them with an ultimatum: get a job or lose your food stamps.

Slated to start in January, the plan has also reignited a flame-throwing debate about the work requirements that often falls along partisan lines. That debate flared earlier this year when state officials implemented the mandate in three counties — Cobb, Gwinnett and Hall. The move has cut the number of childless food stamp recipients in those places by 60 percent, from 6,102 when the program began in January to 2,468 currently.

Because food stamps are federally funded, the plan by the state Division of Family and Children Services must receive federal approval, which officials say is expected next month.

Proponents say the mandate will force able-bodied recipients without children into the work world. They particularly point to those they believe are milking the system when they should be job-hunting.

“No one who is able-bodied and able to work should be drawing food stamps, period,” said Rep. Greg Morris, R-Vidalia. That applies even more to childless adults, said Morris, who is considering the introduction of legislation to extend work requirements to all 159 counties in the state.

But safety net advocates worry that recipients who can’t find a job will lose the help they need to fulfill the most fundamental of needs — putting food on the table.

“There are a lot of people who cannot find jobs based on criminal records, a lack of education, the availability of jobs and impairments,” said Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur. She added, “I believe we should have a safety net for those people.”

Since the mandate began in three counties, the state has acknowledged numerous instances in which food stamp recipients had been declared able-bodied, when they actually could not hold a job. State officials noted that people can challenge the assessment.

One man declared to be able-bodied, Army veteran Abdul Kately of Marietta, had to seek help at a food pantry when he was dropped from the food stamp program earlier this year. He challenged the decision and was placed back on food stamps.

The planned expansion of the work requirements, largely clustered in North Georgia, includes the Atlanta area counties of Coweta, Forsyth, Paulding, Bartow, Barrow and Fayette as well as more outlying counties such as Walton, Jackson and Oconee. The counties were chosen because they had a relatively favorable unemployment rate, which officials believe means people will have a greater chance of scoring jobs there.

Georgia has an unemployment rate of 5.1 percent, slightly above the national average of 4.9 percent.

The food stamp work mandate was introduced in the welfare reforms of 1996 but was waived in many states during the recent years of economic strife. Georgia is among numerous states to bring it back online. Under the rules, able-bodied, childless recipients can receive food stamps for only three months in any three year period, unless they meet the work requirements.

To continue receiving the assistance, they must work 20 hours a week or participate in an approved training or education program. They can also perform “workfare” - essentially unpaid charity work approved by the state.

“Ending welfare assistance is not just about saving taxpayer dollars, although that is always welcome,” Benita Dodd wrote in a recent commentary for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, where she discussed the upcoming expansion. “The goal must be to focus aid on those who truly need help and restore the dignity of work to able-bodied adults.”

Able-bodied, childless adults represent only a small number of food stamp recipients. In Georgia, 1.7 million people, or about one in every six, receive the assistance. The majority are children, the elderly and the disabled. Georgia has a total of 113,000 food stamp recipients classified as childless and able-bodied adults, according to DFCS.

Melissa Johnson, a senior policy analyst with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, believes the state throws around the term “able-bodied” too lightly. She worries that people worthy of the benefit will wrongfully lose their assistance.

“When we add 20 or more counties, we’ll see an even steeper drop off of people losing this critical help,” she said.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

South Georgia wildfire close to 100,000 acres
South Georgia wildfire close to 100,000 acres

The wildfire that started in southeast Georgia earlier this month has burned almost one-fourth of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, officials said Saturday. Known as the West Mims Fire, the blaze now has torched 94,664 acres and is just 8 percent contained, according to a statement from the team that is battling the blaze. Waycross will be impacted...
Record high temperature possible Saturday
Record high temperature possible Saturday

Today: High: 87 Tonight: Low: 67 Tomorrow: High: 85 Better prepare for heat, metro Atlanta. Saturday’s temperature is expected to be near a record high. The forecast high of 87 is just 1 degree lower than the record for this date, Channel 2 meteorologist Brian Monahan said. And the forecast is also well above the average high temperature...
8-month-old gets liver transplant from godmother
8-month-old gets liver transplant from godmother

He’s known as “Finn the Mighty Warrior” on a Facebook page devoted to him, and this 8-month old fighter continues to battle against two rare liver conditions. >> Read more trending news But Finn O’Sullivan won’t have to fight alone. The infant, in need of a transplant, found a match — not from a relative...
At 100-day mark, gauging Trump’s impact on Georgia
At 100-day mark, gauging Trump’s impact on Georgia

President Donald Trump. Curtis Compton/AJC One hundred days into the tenure of the most mold-shattering administration in modern history and President Donald Trump has moved at breakneck pace to try and strip away federal regulations, reset the country’s economic relationships abroad and dismantle the biggest pieces of his predecessor’s...
Woman pulls gun, says barber took too long to give son haircut
Woman pulls gun, says barber took too long to give son haircut

An Ohio woman who believed a barber was taking too long to cut her son’s hair pulled a gun, telling the hairstylist that “I’ve got two clips,” WJW reported. >> Read more trending news According to Crime Stoppers of Cuyahoga County, the incident occurred April 14 at Allstate Barber College in Cleveland. While...
More Stories