I went to U.S. Rep. Tom Reed's Town Hall meeting in Bath on a Saturday in November. A question was asked that pointed out he supported bills that placed the burden of improving the deficit on the neediest of our society, for example SNAP - also known as food stamps - Head Start students, and the unemployed. It asked what bills has he supported that had high income earners - $500,000 and up - help reduced the deficit?
Reed never answered the question, but went right into the fact that SNAP recipients do not have work requirements. He told the group of 30 to 40 constituents that other social welfare programs, for example "TANF (Temporary Assistances for Needy Families) has work requirements, but food stamps does not."
With a little fact checking, I found out that Reed misinformed the people at the meeting.
According to a report presented to the Yates County Legislature, "SNAP recipients are required to work unless they have a child under the age of 5." The SNAP recipients who are required to work, but are unemployed, must be actively searching for employment, and participate in training activities. They need to report their job search history to the county Department of Social Services on a regular basis. The federal government outlines acceptable work activities for SNAP recipients.
For more information on the SNAP work requirements you can download "What you should know about Social Services Programs" and "Temporary Assistance and Food Stamp Employment Manual." They are on the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) website.
Reed's statement was clearly incorrect.
When Reed told the audience at the Bath meeting that there is no work requirement to receive food stamps, they probably believed him. Unfortunately, Reed's comments may have given some people unfounded reasons to view SNAP recipients as being lazy. The fact is that in Yates County, which is typical of our congressional district, over 97 percent of SNAP Cases include adult workers or a parent with children under the age of 5.
In these fragile times where many people do not trust or believe our government, we need a congressional representative who will be forthright with us. We need someone in Congress who is a uniter, not a divider. Reed is not that person.
Rich Stewart is a resident of Penn Yan.