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Sonny Perdue

United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visits with Climb Wyoming staff members during a meeting Wednesday in downtown Cheyenne. Perdue visited Cheyenne as part of his “Back to Our Roots” tour. 

CHEYENNE – The head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it will be worthwhile to ask Wyoming to share the burden of administering food stamp work and education requirements if a farm bill makes its way through Congress intact.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue visited Cheyenne on Wednesday as part of his fourth “Back to Our Roots” tour that includes stops in several Midwest states. Perdue made two stops in the capital city, with his first at Climb Wyoming, a nonprofit program designed to help low-income single mothers out of poverty through job training and placement.

It’s of interest to Perdue, as his agency administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the nation’s largest domestic hunger safety net program. Just more than 80 percent of Climb Wyoming’s funding comes from federal sources, including SNAP.

While women who go through Climb Wyoming and find jobs don’t instantly become ineligible for SNAP benefits, depending on their home and income situation, they do generally become less dependent on such welfare programs, said Molly Kruger, Climb’s program director.

That’s important to understand, Perdue said, because the farm bill making its way through Congress would impose more stringent work and education requirements on those receiving SNAP benefits. Many Democrats and some moderate Republicans have railed against such a provision, but Perdue said Wednesday the Climb data showing its participants gradually moving off the program demonstrated his point.

“They’re still eligible for food stamps if income-wise they qualify,” he said. “The income they make may not disqualify them for food stamps.”

Perdue said he visited Climb to learn about what SNAP education and training programs are all about. SNAP E&T offers funding to states to provide employment and training services to SNAP participants. Climb is a beneficiary of those grants.

Perdue said Americans want to see those who need welfare benefits have a “ramp up” to self-sustaining lifestyles. When he looks at what Climb is doing, Perdue said he wants to see how his agency can replicate and scale the program to help people do that.

“Much of the money for SNAP is being moved into education and training because of work requirements, and I think that’s the right move,” he said. “That’s beginning to build that ramp that helps people up.”

Federal SNAP monies are administered by the states. Work requirements outlined in the farm bill would require states like Wyoming to make sure people are meeting those standards to receive benefits.

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Wyoming already imposes work requirements on able-bodied adults receiving SNAP benefits. But those requirements aren’t as extensive as what is now in the farm bill, said Korin Schmidt, Wyoming Department of Health deputy director.

Schmidt said she couldn’t say for sure what kind of administrative burden the new work requirements would put on Wyoming’s government. But as it stands now, she said she didn’t think it would have a negative effect on Wyoming’s budget, which is already stretched thin.

“If they enhance some of the requirements, it’s going to create some difficulties with administrative costs, but we’re not too concerned with how it is written now,” Schmidt said.

Even if the work requirement would mean an added administrative burden for Wyoming, Perdue said he thinks it would be a net benefit.

“I think that’s doable,” he said. “While there may be some (additional burden), we think that’s a reasonable expectation for the benefits their citizens are getting.”

The farm bill is scheduled for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday. If it passes there, it would move to the Senate for more work on the bill. Significant changes could come in either chamber before all is said and done. But President Donald Trump has said he wants a bill on his desk before the end of the year, Perdue said.

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